Hotel Rwanda is a shrewdly chosen closeup on the Rwandan holocaust of 1994, a portrait of an unassuming hero who turned the Hotel Milles Collins into an oasis of relative safety and bearability in the midst of the hell of genocide and civil war. Sometimes in April, an HBO drama built around the same shattering events, opts for a broader canvas both in time and space, exchanging a strong dramatic center for increased depth of detail and insight.
Compared to the theatrically released Hotel, Sometimes in April is grimmer, less focused, and more uncompromising. Both films focus on a connected, successful Hutu family man with a Tutsi wife and a number of children, but this man’s story, in which the past of 1994 and the present are intercut, is more ambiguous and tragic.
Catholicism is a largely positive presence in Sometimes. One of the film’s most wrenching scenes is in a Catholic boarding school for girls, where the nuns seek vainly to protect their charges from the murderous militias, and the young Hutu students courageously choose solidarity with their Tutsi classmates even though it means martyrdom.
Though the imagery is at times horrific, Sometimes in April still shows restraint, never showing the notorious machetes in use (though there are onscreen shootings).
Beyond the Gates is most worth seeing for its uncompromising portrait of a more representative episode in the Rwandan genocide than the events depicted in Hotel Rwanda. At the same time, it offers little insight into the Hutu or Tutsi experience.
Not in the now-distant mythology of World War II, with the iconic evil of the Nazi regime pitted against the warriors of the Greatest Generation, or even the likes of larger-than-life Oskar Schindler. Here is a horror within living memory of nearly anyone old enough to watch the film, a holocaust without the cover of a massive bureaucratic machine or industrialized, sanitized gas chambers.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.