A Republic Gone Mad (Rwanda 1884-1994)

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A critical history of Rwanda, from German colonisation to the genocide of 1994.


In 1954, the ethnologist and filmmaker Luc de Heusch shot a film in Rwanda, illustrating the traditional relationship between Tutsi herdsmen and Hutu farmers in this ancient Central African Kingdom, then a Belgian protectorate. Exactly forty years later, more than five hundred thousand Tutsi men, women and children perished in the first genocide in African history. Contrary to what a misinformed public opinion was all to willing to believe, this tragedy was not the ultimate episode in a secular struggle between two hostile “ethnic groups”. This is what Luc de Heusch sets out to demonstrate in a historical film that pieces together the true face of this society, disfigured first by the colonial ideology, then by the republican regime. Hutu and Tustsi make up one nation whose inhabitants speak the same language, come from the same religion, share the same interdictions, and acknowledge the rule of a single sacred king. The film tells the country’s story from the time of the German colonisation, dealing in turn with the Belgian mandate, the drama of independence, the seizure of power by Grégoire Kayibanda and the dictatorship of Juvénal Habyarimana.


1996. video 4/3 Letterbox, colour and black and white, 75′.


Image : Luc de Heusch
Editor : Denise Vindevogel
Director assistant : Claire Colart
Voice-over : Jean-François Bastin et Alice Karékézi (French), John Boyle et Sally Boyle (English)
Archives : RTBF – BRTN – Orinfor (Rwanda) – André Cauvin – Luc de Heusch – Gérard Deboe, Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale de Tervueren (Belgium)


Production : Simple production
Coproduction : RTBF – BRTN – Orinfor – La Sept/Arte – Videocam
Partners : RVU Educational Broadcasting – l’Agence de Coopération Culturelle et technique (ACCT)