The Common Good

Revisiting Rwanda: Finding the Truth After Genocide

In the documentary Earth Made of Glass, director Deborah Scranton weaves together the stories of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Jean Pierre Sagahutu, two men who struggled to seek the truth about what really happened in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. How could thousands of people die every day for three months while the Western world stood silent? At the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, I sat down with Deborah Scranton (director/producer), Reid Carolin (producer), and Jean Pierre Sagahutu to discuss how this film can shed light on a story that has gone underreported in the United States.

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Becky Garrison: Why do you feel the Rwandan genocide received so little attention in 1994?

Reid Carolin: We had just come off Mogadishu [the "Black Hawk down" incident in October 1993], and that was a colossal disaster for the U.S. Some responsibility should fall on the media for generally misreporting what was actually going on in Rwanda. The real tragedy is to go back there 15 years later and look through all the reports and see what isn't true. The coverage was so poor that this story has not been understood correctly.

You frame this documentary as representing another Holocaust.

Deborah Scranton: As President Kagame has stated, the roots of the problem started with colonialism and the identity cards. When he draws the analogy that it's similar to what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust, it's an apt comparison because we can relate to that interpretive framework. It wasn't tribal warfare, which is a label that is put on Africa all the time. Instead, there was a very evil genocidal regime supported by France that had a very effective killing plan. The West did not make that correlation and get that understanding. When we talk about never allowing the Holocaust to happen again, people have to be willing to look at a more accurate timeline in order to reframe and understand what really happened in Rwanda.

What role, if any, did the faith communities play in this disaster?

Carolin: When we were there, we found that many of the killings had taken place in the churches. So, the Christian [Catholic] churches are quite eerie places overall. The only places where people were protected and saved were in mosques.

The documentary debuts Wednesday, April 6 on HBO2 from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET/PT and will be rebroadcast April 27. Read the rest of my interview with the creators of the film in January 2011 issue of Sojourners magazine.

Follow Becky Garrison's ongoing travels on Twitter @JesusDied4This.

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