Genocide and human madness in The Day God Went Away
by Dorota Hartwich
28/07/2010 - Presented in the Panorama of Contemporary World Cinema section at Poland’s Era New Horizons Festival, French/Belgian co-production The Day God Went Away [trailer], which looks at the mass murder of Tutsis by Hutu extremists in Rwanda in 1994, is an important film on several accounts.
This debut feature, written and directed by screenwriter-cinematographer Philippe Van Leeuw (see video interview), who lensed God’s Offices [trailer] and Demented [trailer, film focus], shows this horrific moment in Africa’s history from an individual’s point of view, whilst opening the way to a universal meditation on human nature.
Irrespective of the director’s intentions, the film is also a political act. Indeed, it is a voice of opposition to the passivity of western powers who, whilst always remembering the gravity of the Holocaust, were not capable, 50 years later, of intervening and putting an end to genocide on a neighbouring continent.
The story is set in Kigali in 1994. The city is strewn with the dead bodies of Tutsis, who continue to be hunted down by the Hutus.
Jacqueline, a Tutsi nanny (Ruth Nirere), hides in the false ceiling of a villa belonging to a Belgian family who are preparing to flee. However, she is less concerned about her own survival than finding her children, as she doesn’t know what has become of them.
After one night in her hiding place, she flees through some woods, searching for her two sons but finding only two small lifeless bodies. Continuing her escape into the middle of the forest, she seems to be running away from herself, tries to commit suicide and loses her mind to the point of mental alienation.
The film, whose cast also includes Afazali Dewaele and Lola Tuyaerts, was lensed by DoP Marc Koninckx and edited by Andrée Davanture.
The Day God Went Away won the Kuxta New Director Award at the latest San Sebastian Film Festival and Best Film at the 11th Bratislava Film Festival, where Nirere also nabbed Best Actress.
The feature was produced by Liaison Cinématographique, Les Films du Mogho, Artémis Productions, Minds Meet and RTBF, with backing from France’s National Film and Moving Image Centre (CNC), Canal+, Ciné Cinéma and Mwana Productions. French distribution and international sales were handled by MK2 Distribution.
(Translated from French)