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Keepers of Memory - reviews

Video Librarian
January-February 2006

Keepers of Memory. DVD. color. 52 min. Dist. by Choices Inc.
2005. ISBN 1-930545-43-6.
***1/2 stars - Highly Recommended

Far more effective and haunting than the theatrical release Hotel Rwanda, Eric Kabera’s documentary on the 1994 Rwanda genocide features survivors whose stories are equal parts harrowing and heartbreaking. One Tutsi woman recalls lying on the floor of her home amidst the bodies of her slain family members while Hutu gunmen roamed the area. Fearing that the gunmen would return and find her alive, she was forced to drink the blood dripping from the slain bodies in order to quench her thirst. Another woman visits an abandoned church used to house the remains of the dead, where she places wild flowers atop the bones of exhumed Tutsis in a sincere act of remembrance to the anonymous slain. One man criticizes the foreign journalists who descended on Rwanda after the massacres ended, expressing anger over their absence during the genocide and their inability to absorb the depth of the tragedy. The preservation of burial sites is a primary focus throughout the aptly titled Keepers of Memory—the Rwandans who appear on camera are passionate about bringing a level of dignity to the victims denied them in their final moments alive. DVD extras include a director’s commentary track, guidebook/lesson plan, and photo gallery. Highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)

Educational Media Reviews Online- January 12, 2006

Keepers of Memory

Reviewed by Rob Sica, Eastern Kentucky University

Directed By Eric Kabera
DVD – 52 minutes

Sr. High – Adult

Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Human Rights, African Studies


This gravely absorbing and – particularly in light of the ongoing genocide currently transpiring in the Darfur region of Sudan at the time of this writing – necessary documentary consists of interviews with survivors (and, chillingly, some perpetrators) of the Rwandan genocide in which more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered by Hutus with horrifying dispatch over the course of 100 days between early April and mid July of 1994. Among the killing sites and memorials visited by director Eric Kabera are the Nyanza Memorial on the outskirts of the Rwandan capital city of Kigali (where over 2,000 were murdered in the wake of the withdrawal of UN Peace Keeping forces); Ntarama Church (in which bones of over 5,000 dead remain); the Nyange Memorial (composed of ruins from a church bulldozed on order of the parish priest where over 2,000 Tutsi refugees were murdered); Murambi (over 27,000 murdered at a school); Nyamata Church (about 2,500 murdered); and Nyarubuye Convent (over 20,000 murdered). Kabera crafts a rightly haunting mosaic of trauma and grief from the deeply personal and morally resonant testimonies drawn from survivors of each of these places.

Though survivors’ indignant recollections of the international community’s appallingly willful negligence are plentiful, and Kabera intersperses footage of, for instance, UN vehicles evacuating Kigali during the onset of the genocide, menacing roadside bands of Interahamwe militiamen brandishing machetes and sticks, a solemn President Clinton during his 2002 visit to Rwanda, and a few leaders of the genocide facing trial – nevertheless, this documentary is not, nor is it intended to be, a general overview or analysis of the genocide (such as the highly recommendable PBS Frontline documentary Ghosts of Rwanda), but is rather an invaluable complement to such a broader project, as well as a powerful impetus for viewers to inform themselves further.

Extra features include a Lesson Plan/Guidebook (available here in PDF) made in collaboration with the Genocide Teaching Project at the American University Washington College of Law Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, as well as a Director’s Commentary track that is moving, reflective and informative enough to warrant an additional viewing with this feature activated.

Booklist - January 2006

Keepers of Memory: Survivors’ Accounts of the Rwandan Genocide. 2005. 52min. Choices, DVD, $99.95 (1-930545-85-1). 888-570-5400.

In 1994, during a three-month period, 800,000 Rwandans were killed in a genocide sparked by the death of the country’s president. This deeply moving documentary focuses on those who look after the victims’ burial sites. These “keepers of memory,” some of whom lost their entire families, describe how the country handled—or, in some cases, failed to deal with—the horrible events. The documentary interweaves contemporary footage of the memory keepers and the burial sites with archival news footage. For example, one clip shows Rwandan troops preparing for battle and the evacuation of French nationals by UN forces. Some of the film’s images—clubs made out of tree branches, with the hair of the dead still clinging to them—are unforgettable. Most of the film is dubbed in English. Oddly, considering the subject matter, the program projects a hopeful, almost optimistic feeling. Many of the interviewees recount that the country is finally beginning to heal. DVD extras include director’s commentary, photo gallery, guidebook, and lesson plans. —David Pitt

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