A French cameraman present during the Rwanda massacre, now a documentary filmmaker, returns to the scene 10 years later in this gripping, angry postmortem of a civil war that has lost none of its horror. In “Return to Kigali” director Jean-Christophe Klotz turns his passionate indignation on the politicians and media that stood by while around one million Tutsi were killed by a government army and militia that France armed and trained. Lacking exploitative, gory images, film’s subject will attract mature audiences who want to deepen their understanding of genocide and the evil of which man is capable.
Doc’s extremely personal nature takes it beyond TV news reports, though one would have liked to see a few more facts and figures about the country and the war. As is, there is a glimpse of a map of Africa behind U.N. force commander Gen. Romeo Dallaire as he delivers a strongly worded testimony, and little else.
Klotz, working for the Capa agency, was one of the first reporters on the scene in the spring of 1994. He was asked to accompany mediator Bernard Kouchner to the capital, Kigali, where he filmed corpses strewn along the road, meetings with leaders, and a moving interview with Father Blanchard, a French priest who sheltered refugees in the parish church and witnessed their massacre. Rather naively, Klotz believed his shots would provoke the West to intervene immediately.
Instead, he was wounded in an attack and evacuated to Paris. There, only days later, he turned on the television and saw his footage of children hiding in the church: They had just been murdered.
When France finally sent in troops later that year the massacres were over, and the French army ended up protecting the perpetrators of the genocide as they fled across the border.
Returning to Kigali two years ago to search for survivors, Klotz showed his footage to people, eliciting a predictably shaken reaction.
After these obvious scenes, film turns to more thoughtful threads. On the one hand, Klotz expresses angry indignation against the refusal of Western governments like Francois Mitterand’s France and Bill Clinton’s U.S. to jump in quickly and stop the killings.
At the same time, film brims over with pain at the perverse way the media was used to whitewash national policy. Film offers no great analysis here, only a helpless cry of despair and a flood of familiar images of soldiers jumping out of helicopters and helping evacuate the wrong side.
Catherine Zins’ editing interlaces Klotz’s many reflections on the war in an understandable back-and-forth montage. The images speak for themselves.