My Neighbor My Killer: Intimate Look at Rwanda Post-Genocide

Cannes Film Fest 2009–Award-winning filmmaker Anne Aghion’s feature documentary, My Neighbor My Killer, has been chosen as an official selection at this year’s edition.

This intimate look at the human, emotional side of Rwanda’s attempt at reconciliation after genocide will be shown in the Special Screenings section on Saturday, May 16th at the Salle du Soixantième, at a time to be announced.

In 1994, hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus were incited to wipe out the country’s Tutsi minority. From the crowded capital to the smallest village, local ‘patrols’ massacred lifelong friends and family members, most often with machetes and improvised weapons. Officially announced in 2001, and ending this year, the government put in place the Gacaca (ga-CHA-cha) Tribunals—open-air hearings with citizen-judges meant to try their neighbors and rebuild the nation. As part of this experiment in reconciliation, confessed genocide killers are sent home from prison, while traumatized survivors are asked to forgive them and resume living side-by-side. Filming for close to a decade in a tiny hamlet, in MY NEIGHBOR MY KILLER, Anne Aghion charts the impact of the Gacaca on survivors and perpetrators alike. Through their fear and anger, accusations and defenses, blurry truths, inconsolable sadness, and hope for life renewed, she documents an emotional journey to coexistence.

Returning over and over to this one community, from the time the idea of the Gacaca was first presented to the population through to the local trials, yielded over 350 hours of footage.  Along the way, Aghion created an award-winning series of one-hour films which have been seen around the world and are recognized as a unique and seminal body of work on a community in transition after conflict.  The titles include Gacaca, Living Together Again In Rwanda?, winner of the 2003 Unesco Fellini Prize, the 2005 Emmy-winner In Rwanda We Say…The family that does not speak dies, and the newly completed The Notebooks of Memory.

As a filmmaker, Anne Aghion focuses intently on the emotional and experiential core of the stories she follows, imparting what one reporter has called “the feel…the landscape, the texture of the place, the rhythm of speech and movement” of the people and locales she captures.

Her previous films also include the feature-length documentary Ice People —currently in release in the United States—which explores the physical, emotional and spiritual adventure of living and conducting science in Antarctica; and Se Le Movio el Pisò (The Earth Moved Under Him—A Portrait of Managua), that follows slum dwellers in Nicaragua.  Before turning to a career in film, Aghion spent a decade at The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. She splits her time between New York and Paris, and holds a degree in Arab Language and Literature from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York. She is the recipient of a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship.

MY NEIGHBOR MY KILLER is a production of Gacaca Productions. Produced with the support of The Federal Service of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, The Compton Foundation, The New York State Council on the Arts, Oxfam-Novib, The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, and The United States Institute of Peace. The Producer wishes to thank The Austrian Development Cooperation, The Guggengheim Foundation, The Peter S. Reed Foundation, RCN Justice & Democracy, The Soros Documentary Fund of the Open Society Institute, The Sundance Documentary Fund, a program of the Sundance Institute.

Color. 80 Minutes. Digibeta. Stereo.  In Kinyarwanda, with English and French subtitles.