The deliberately paced, quietly immersive "Kinyarwanda" tells a tangle of stories set in and around 1994's Rwandan genocide, a roughly 100-day nightmare that pit that country's Hutu majority against its Tutsi minority, resulting in as many as a million violent deaths. This ambitious first feature film about the period made entirely by Rwandans (shot in a remarkable 16 days), while hardly an all-inclusive look at this complex conflict, paints a heartfelt, fairly restrained picture of a nation under siege.
Writer-director Alrick Brown crafted the film from true accounts of genocide survivors as well as from the movie's Rwandan cast and crew members. Six interwoven tales essentially lead up to — or back to — the point that, thanks to Rwanda's most respected Muslim mufti (scholar), the country's mosques became a refuge for the Tutsis as well as those Hutus who chose not to kill. Islam emerges here as a critical and — some viewers may think, given later world events — unexpected instrument of peace.
The people-over-politics story lines include the intermarriage of a Hutu and a Tutsi, a teen girl who survives her murdered parents, and a repentant Hutu soldier recounting his heinous actions.
"Kinyarwanda," whose title is the name of Rwanda's official language, is haunting stuff.
"Kinyarwanda." No MPAA rating. In English and Kinyarwandan with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.