Friday, November 21, 2008

"Healing and Rebuilding Lives After Genocide"

That was the subtitle of the event I attended last night at the local Gillioz Theatre. The title of the headlining film was ICYIZERE:hope; a documentary, filmed by a Kenyan native transplanted to Springfield, telling the story of a three day workshop that took place in Rwanda. The workshop brought together 10 perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide and 10 survivors, working through various emotional responses to their tragic history. One of the major themes that came up among both perpetrators and survivors was fear and mourning. Rarely did I ever shed a tear in our study while in New York, but watching a young man confess his sadness over mourning the loss of his mother, father, sister and brother, I broke down (ugly style). This young man was jealous of his classmates, knowing that when they fretted over taking home bad grades to their parents he could not have the same fear; instead he had to go home to no one, no scolding or fear of a reprimand for a low mark. This element of genocide, this absolute destruction of the family, is what is most gut-wrenching for me. And nothing else can communicate this as well as personal stories.

The filmmaker has shown the film at the Rwanda Film Festival, over Rwandan television, and at Gisenyi Central Prison (where one of the perpetrators who attended the workshop was imprisoned for his crimes during the genocide), all with the hope that more people will become aware of these workshops and these opportunities to come together, to break down barriers, and to work toward a future of hope.

The final moving portion of the documentary shows groups of perpetrators and survivors working together to identify the “roots” or actions, and the “fruit” or results of the actions. So often, many of the group presenters kept repeating the term Icyizere, which means hope, and, at least for me, knowing the one term and knowing what they were doing-identifying actions that would lead to hope for them as individuals and communities-was like a wave of hope for me. I know that may sound weird, and I don’t think I did a good job of describing it, but I guess it was my purely emotional response to the presentation.

At the end of the night, there was a question and answer period, and the filmmaker brought up many of the same issues that Gatsinzi did in his presentation, especially laying the groundwork for the Rwandan genocide. I was like an excited student with the right answers, able to connect the dots between the causes. For that, I must say thank you to Gatsinzi, for sharing the history with us. And again, I feel like I should thank Sondra and Jennifer and Alice and David and Ellen and Mark and Carole for allowing me to participate in one of the greatest experiences of my life. I left a local pub to go to the theater, and normally I would not have done that, but I know that the time spent together in New York has left such an impression on me that I’m moved to participate in these educational community gatherings. I feel like it’s these little things that can bring us together, and that in the end will keep us together.

To finish on a lighter note, and to add a bit more personal humor to the blog, I've included a school picture from the last day of soccer season. It was the Friday of Spirit Week, and it was "Nerd Day," so I just dressed up like myself, but added the hat and tape on my glasses. I hope you enjoy.


Danielle said...

Amish convert?

Larry Neuburger said...

Nice to hear from you my man. Thanks for sharing this story with us. Any chance you could post on the listserve? There are several people I have met here in San Antonio that are a part of HEN, some from our class of 2008, and some from earlier years. All of them, especially Gatzinzi, would be touched by your post.

tseib said...

Thomas: Somehow the "Nerd" thing just works for you!! It is good to hear from you again. Keep in touch.

Tom Seib