Rwanda, April 6th 2013. A day shy of the 19th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsis, a funeral is held at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. It’s a modest affair with a handful of people attending. A woman clenches a bunch of flowers and from time to time wipes her tears with a handkerchief. A wooden casket is lowered gently into an opening made at one of the plateaus covered by concrete slabs. It is here where an estimated 250,000 people have been buried. Down below a group of four men decide where to place the coffin, there isn’t much space and caskets are stacked six and seven high in places. They find a space on top of one of the stacks and gently lift and place the casket there by hand. It contains the remains of up to nine people. Most of the remains of the estimated 800,000 people slaughtered during the 100 days the genocide lasted have now been buried but every so often, when digging the foundations of a new building or roadworks, it is common to come across human remains. 

Many years have passed
since the genocide, but for many it feels like yesterday; although this year’s ceremony at the Genocide Memorial was marked by a low key event attended by President Paul Kegame, his wife, ministers and a small number of diplomatic guests, it was later at the AmahoroStadium where thousands had the opportunity to remember their dead in a candle-lit vigil. On our way to the stadium we met a survivor, SpecioseMukayiramg who lost her husband and three children during the genocide and we visit the school where they first sought refuge in the belief the UN soldiers also stationed there would protect them, only to be abandoned later at the mercy of their killers following the contingent’s withdrawal. The decision that led to the withdrawal was due to the killing of ten Belgium soldiers from UNAMIR, the peace mission operating under a UN mandate and made out largely of Belgium forces.
At the stadium the night progresses with songs and choirs and gradually the shrill screams of those overwhelmed by grief and trauma can be heard from amongst the crowds. The sight of people being carried out of the stadium and handed to the Mental Health teams, drafted for the occasion, became common place.
Next day, a journey towards Gisenyi in the North West of the country begins. The roads are full of windy curves around a largely mountainous terrain. As our 4 x 4 continues its ascent, we came across a group of men, working on the side of the road with pickaxes and shovels.  They are men who confessed to their role in the genocide and asked for forgiveness, thus being enlisted in the up-keeping of roads and highways. Under the guise of armed guards we are able to speak to them. Continuing our journey through the mountains and as we near the border with the Congo, the site of the RPF heavily armed military patrols becomes common place.  Our 4 x 4 approaches a village in the mountains near Gisenyi in the North West of the country. Here, with the help of the locals, we are able to find the houses of both a man accused of perpetrating massacres against its population and of its victims, side by side. This is a characteristic you will find throughout Rwanda. Many stories of survival, forgiveness and reconciliation, in particular amongst a new generation of Rwandans. 

We drive back towards Kigali and make an unscheduled stop at the Nyamata memorial site in the Bugeseraregion, approximately 35 kilometers from the capital city of Kigali. Nyamata and the surrounding region suffered some of the most extensive devastation in 1994, a result of targeted attacks during the Genocide Against the Tutsi. But amid the carnage and devastation that engulfed the country in 1994 and its legacy, there is a young generation of Rwandans who are optimistic about the future. We meet a a Tutsi man who married the Hutu daughter of those involved in killing his family and today he is the one supporting his wife’s mother out of his reparation money. Back in Kigali we meet Dydine, the young founder of Umbrella, an NGO that enables young people from all backgrounds to come to terms with their experiences and memories through film; and Marcel, a successful young entrepreneur who runs a popular news website in Rwanda. He was one of only two out of 2,000 people who survived a massacre. They talk about their hopes and aspirations for the future of their country. They also reflect on what remembering and justice means to them.

Rain Through Stone is not a film about who is right or who is wrong, who is guilty or who is innocent. Instead the film aims to provide a complex and rounded portrait of international justice mechanisms and the role memory or the absence of it plays in the public consciousness both in Rwanda and the West. Through the intimate and personal journeys of our characters we ask a vital and pressing question: how do we deal with the magnitude of genocide and the passing of time. What will remain engraved in stone for posterity and what will be washed away?

‘Rain Through Stone’ was the working title of the film which then became ‘Justice Seekers’ EDITED 02.06.14

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