The deliberately paced, quietly immersive "Kinyarwanda" tells a tangle of stories set in and around 1994's Rwandan genocide, a roughly 100-day nightmare that pit that country's Hutu majority against its Tutsi minority, resulting in as many as a million violent deaths. This ambitious first feature film about the period made entirely by Rwandans (shot in a remarkable 16 days), while hardly an all-inclusive look at this complex conflict, paints a heartfelt, fairly restrained picture of a nation under siege.
Writer-director Alrick Brown crafted the film from true accounts of genocide survivors as well as from the movie's Rwandan cast and crew members. Six interwoven tales essentially lead up to — or back to — the point that, thanks to Rwanda's most respected Muslim mufti (scholar), the country's mosques became a refuge for the Tutsis as well as those Hutus who chose not to kill. Islam emerges here as a critical and — some viewers may think, given later world events — unexpected instrument of peace.
The people-over-politics story lines include the intermarriage of a Hutu and a Tutsi, a teen girl who survives her murdered parents, and a repentant Hutu soldier recounting his heinous actions.
"Kinyarwanda," whose title is the name of Rwanda's official language, is haunting stuff.