Imbabazi tells the genocide story like no other

22:29 by Kaggwa Andrew
Prynce Joel Okuyo (Manzi) in one of the scenes from the movie
The week-long Euro–African Film festival closed last week at Theatre La Bonita to hundreds of contented sighs.

The festival had exhibited the best in European and African cinema with movies such as In a Better World, Limbo, Searching for Sugarman, No Time To Die, The Ugandan, Ezra and Roho – Oscar-winning Lupita Nyong’o’s first movie from 2006. However, as the festival closed, one movie stood out: Joel Karekezi’s Imbabazi: The Pardon.

The Pardon is a Rwandan film about two best friends, Manzi (Prynce Joel Okuyo) and Karemera (Wilson Egesa). They seem inseparable until the forces of history and violence tear them apart. Manzi is a Hutu and Karemera a Tutsi, but during the ethnic clashes where thousands were massacred as the Hutu majority tried to annihilate the Tutsi minority, Manzi had to choose between friendship and family.

Manzi’s choice leads to his brutal murder of Karemera’s father, sister and younger brother before his friend’s eyes. Fifteen years later, news of Manzi’s release from prison throws Karemera’s life into chaos. As the former friends search for justice and absolution, they find themselves at odds with a society eager to forget the past.

Unlike different films about the topic, this comes out heavy with emotion and graphic scenes. The director chose to tell this story by focusing on the characters rather than historical events. The central relationship of the film  tells the larger story of the genocide.

“I drew on my own personal experiences as a Rwandan and a genocide survivor to help the actors identify with their characters. I wanted to bring this story to the screen in a natural way so that the focus would be centred on the characters and their journey. I worked with my sound team to recreate the auditory environment of Rwanda on film. I also wanted to use Rwandan musical elements in the soundtrack,” says Karekezi.

Karekezi adds that the story was inspired by real events that took place when he was only eight years old in 1994.

“My own father was killed. Afterwards, I began to ask myself: if I knew someone who killed my father, would I be able to forgive him? What makes forgiveness possible? Is forgiveness necessary for a survivor?”

The film was shot in Uganda with mostly a Ugandan crew and actors that include Michael Wawuyo, Felix Bwanika, Matthew Nabwiso, Edwin Mukalazi and Brenda Ibarah.
The intriguing storyline in Karekezi’s film is confirmation that the African continent has got some of the most interesting stories to tell.

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