Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali (Birds Are Singing in Kigali)
5th October 2017 3.15pm at BFI Southbank
6th October 2017 6.10pm at Curzon Soho
Over a 100-day period between April and July, the world witnessed one of the largest mass genocides since the Second World War. The slaughter saw the deaths of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandans, 70% of whom were of Tutsi origin, and resulted in the displacement and escape of two million refugees. The new movie, Birds Are Singing in Kigali, from Polish couple Joanna Kos-Krauze and the late Krzysztof Krauze, seeks to emulate the sheer destruction and suffering experienced by the Rwandans at the time, and leaves a resonating message in its wake.
The film opens in a style not far from that of David Attenborough’s renowned documentary series. In a number of close-ups, a collection of African vultures ravish the remains of a deceased wildebeest. There is an intense focus on the auditory aspect of this shot, a theme that continues throughout the entire feature, and the audience get an opportunity to absorb the grotesqueness of the scene. The film cuts between Poland and Rwanda, following two companions, Anna (Jowita Budnik), an ornithologist who is visiting Rwanda as part of her professional research, and Claudine (Eliane Umuhire), a Tutsi woman who flees her home town in an attempt to survive the genocide. Escaping the raids and riots, Anna and Claudine return to the former’s homeland of Poland, where the Tutsi refugee gains her citizenship. In an attempt to reconnect with Claudine’s family members, the pair return to Rwanda after the conclusion of the genocide in search of her sister and a clearer conscience.
A sensitive plot, there is a large amount of potential for Birds Are Singing in Kigali. There is a significant lack of cinematic coverage of the Rwandan genocide, presenting a very large hole in the market for the Krauze directors, but the question is, did they fill it? Does the feature do justice to the horrific events that occurred? A strong moral message is expressed through the vivid imagery of animals in between scenes with a human touch, suggesting that the filmmakers’ wished the audience to understand that humans are no different to the wild animals that also inhabit this earth. If there is a desire within human nature for one to kill another, (which history will argue there is) then we are no better than the vultures that pick at the mortal remains of life. This is a poignant message that rings true from every scene in the film.
The problem is that this message is dictated in the slowest possible manner, making the pacing of the picture rather unengaging. The context is there, as are the superb actors who fill the two main roles, it just doesn’t seem to be told in the best way. The attempts to intensify the auditory and visual senses are sensational up to a point, but after 90 seconds of an onscreen hug, the audience are left wanting something else. The movie is slightly too long because of this, and contains a tale that could be condensed into an hour-long picture. The intent is there, it’s just not effectively conveyed.
Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali (Birds Are Singing in Kigali) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Ptaki śpiewają w Kigali (Birds Are Singing in Kigali) here: