Films, speakers at Bates College examine Rwandan genocide

Two Monday evening events at Bates College explore both the experiences of people who survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the process of documenting this horrific episode in history.

At 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22, the college screens the 1997 film Valentina’s Nightmare: A Journey into the Rwandan Genocide, which documents the massacre of an estimated 20,000 civilians on April 15-16, 1994, at the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church in Kibungo Province, where they had taken refuge. A discussion with Valentina Iribagiza, one of the few survivors of the Nyarubuye massacre, follows the screening.

A week later, at 8 p.m. March 1, in an event titled Recording Testimonies and Bearing Witness in Rwanda, the college shows Voices of Rwanda, an acclaimed documentary compiled from hundreds of hours of interviews with genocide survivors. A discussion with filmmaker Taylor Krauss, who directs an oral history project with survivors, and genocide survivor Berthe Kayitesi follows the screening.

Both events take place in Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Ave., and are open to the public at no cost. They are sponsored by the French department with support from the Learning Associates Program. For more information, please contact this

In April 1994, tensions between Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups boiled over into 100 days of nightmarish violence in which up to a million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were massacred by Hutu extremists. Alexandre Dauge-Roth, assistant professor of French at Bates, focuses his research and teaching on the process and the societal purposes of documenting the genocide. The Monday events are part of an ongoing series of Bates events exploring the topic.

First broadcast on the PBS series “Frontline,” Valentina’s Nightmare is reporter Fergal Keane’s documentary about Iribagiza. A Tutsi, she was 13 at the time of the genocide, and survived the massacre of her village by hiding among the bodies of her family and neighbors.

Keane was one of the first Westerners to enter the Nyarubuye churchyard after the slaughter. “I had an intellectual understanding of what the word ‘massacre’ meant from reading books,” Keane told “Frontline.”

“But books don’t smell. Books don’t rot. Books don’t lie in stagnant pools. Books don’t leach into the earth the way those bodies did. They can’t tell you about it. Nothing can tell you about it except the experience of going there and seeing it.”

Krauss’ documentary compiles recordings and testimonies of genocide survivors. He is the founder and director of a nonprofit project, also called Voices of Rwanda, that preserves such testimonies to ensure that these stories continue to inspire a global sense of responsibility for the prevention of human rights atrocities.

After the screening, Krauss and genocide survivor Berthe Kayitesi, author of the testimony Tomorrow My Life: Orphans in Post-Genocide Rwanda, will speak. Kayitesi, a Tutsi, lost her parents and two older sisters during the genocide, but was able to escape with a few siblings and found refuge in an orphanage in the Congo, where she spent four years.

She now holds a bachelor’s degree in psychopedagogy from the Adventist University of Central Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, and a master’s in education from the University of Québec at Trois-Rivières. She serves as an ambassador for Friends of Tubeho, a nonprofit organization committed to providing access to education for more than 300 orphans of the Rwandan genocide.

Read about Bates students studying in Rwanda.

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