A Sunday In Kigali

Stars: Luc Picard, Fatou N’Diaye

Director: Robert Favreau

Rating: 14A

** (out of five)

Robert Favreau’s A Sunday In Kigali is a drama about the Rwandan genocide that gripped that African nation in the spring of 1994, when the nation’s Hutus attempted to wipe out their Tutsi countrymen. One hundred days later, between 800,000 and one million people had been slaughtered, mostly by machete.

A Sunday In Kigali, based on a novel by Gil Courtemanche, inserts a fictional character into this very real horror story — the middle-aged journalist Bernard Valcourt, played by Luc Picard. Valcourt, in Rwanda making a documentary about the ravages of AIDS, has the hard luck to fall in love with a Tutsi girl named Gentille (Fatou N’Diaye) just as the political climate begins to darken.

The story moves back and forth in time, contrasting the lightness of Bernard and Gentille’s flirtation at the luxurious Hotel Mille Collines with the wasteland of the grounds six months later, when Bernard returns to search for his love.

It’s all very well-acted, and Favreau creates two timelines with efficient, sharp strokes, but it still feels like a distant third to the two Rwanda dramas that preceded it to the screen, Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda and Michael Caton-Jones’ Shooting Dogs.

The Mille Collines, of course, was the hotel where Paul Rusesabagina saved over 1,200 Tutsis during the crisis, an event depicted so vividly in Hotel Rwanda. That film, which didn’t have to resort to an unconvincing romantic subplot, never stops casting its shadow over this one. And the flawed Shooting Dogs played the white-man’s-guilt card more eloquently.

This isn’t to suggest filmmakers should stop revisiting Rwanda; it’s a tale that needs to be told as often as possible. But perhaps one could politely request that filmmakers try a little harder next time.