Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 113 minutes
Stranger Says: Polish ornithologist Anna is studying vultures in Rwanda when the 1994 genocide begins. She saves a young Tutsi woman, Claudine, and takes her back to Poland. There is an unknown history and an intense hostility between the two women, even as they both struggle to readjust. The film contains gruesome depictions of animal carnage interspersed with discombobulated scenes where confusing things happen—actions aren’t explained and people aren’t identified, so you just have to guess what’s going on. The two main actors are terrific, but the story is frustratingly opaque.
SIFF Says:BIRDS ARE SINGING IN KIGALI is a multi-level drama of two women who survived the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Polish orinthologist Anna Keller (Jowita Budnik) and Rwandan Claudine Mugambira (Eliane Umuhire). Anna has been working in Rwanda with Claudine’s father, a professor of ornithology studying the decline of vultures in Africa, but when the Hutus decimate the Tutsi population and murder Claudine’s family, Anna must help her escape. Both women, deeply suffering, engage in a complex and piercing psychological process of healing and restoration of their daily lives, a strange pair engaged in a love-hate relationship. This film was shot on location in Rwanda, Kenya, and Poland by the Polish filmmaking duo Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze (MY NIKIFOR, SIFF 2016), who lived in Africa for several years. When they finally began to shoot the film, Krzysztof passed away, and Joanna later completed the project. This film is about the lasting trauma of genocide, what it means to forgive, to reconcile, to remember, and to mourn. The other main character in the film is nature itself, ever changing, eroding, and renewing.
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