Raoul Peck is a softspoken man, but the gentle timbre of his voice does nothing to disguise the passion he feels for SOMETIMES IN APRIL, which he wrote and directed for HBO. This look at the Rwandan genocide of 1994, an event that took a million lives in 100 days, was a topic he was not eager to explore, yet it was also one that he found difficult to pass up. We spoke on March 11, 2005 at a special screening of the film in San Francisco co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch. The conversation centered on responsibility, the filmmaker’s to the people whose story he was depicting, the genocide’s perpetrators’ to their victims, and the world’s to those same victims.
In SOMETIMES IN APRIL, Peck has taken the specific story of the Rwandan genocide of April 1994 and made manifest the universal implications of the events. There is plenty of culpability to go around and Peck is not shy about pointing fingers, but he is also not shy about pointing up the greater lesson of what happened, one that requires acts of personal and political courage as great as those demanded during the bloodshed.
His focus is on Augustin, (Idris Elba, click here for the interview for TAKERS) a Hutu ex-soldier who has gone on with his life, despite losing his Tutsi wife children in the genocide. But he can?t bring himself to formalize the arrangement with is cherished common-law wife, nor can he bring himself to have anything to do with his brother, Honore (Oris Orhuero), who was a radio journalist in 1994. Honore, along with others on the airwaves, was turning his rhetoric from political opinion to the incitement that would turn deadly. In 2004, he is awaiting trial for his actions at the international tribunal in Tanzania, actions that he is just coming to realize were as responsible for the massacres as if he himself had been wielding a machine gun or, the weapon of choice, a machete. He?s also reaching out to his estranged brother, who is compelled to reach back, if only for closure of some sort.
Full of sadness and a fair amount of anger, it is not vitriolic. Anger in this context, while certainly justifiable is shown for what it can turn into, an ultimately useless, even dangerous emotion, one that will destroy those acting on it and, worse, serve as a flashpoint for further genocide. Haunting and elegiac, this film demands of his characters, and of its viewers, to find within themselves the courage to allow healing to take root. And by being inclusive in the worldview he sets out, Peck sets the right example for the world.