Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tribeca Film Festival: Earth Made of Glass

This afternoon, I took part in something which felt very important. From the casting call I attended in Soho in the early afternoon, I traveled up to Chelsea, to the SVA Theater, to take part in one of Tribeca Film Festival's documentary screenings. What I saw was Earth Made of Glass, the title derived from a powerful quote by Emerson about how there is no place to hide for the guilty, how the earth becomes like glass for them.

The film centered around a man called Jean-Pierre Sagahutu, a 47-year-old man living in Rwanda whose entire family--2 parents, 2 brothers, and 3 sisters--were killed in the 1994 genocide in his country. During the course of the film, Sagahutu finds and confronts one of the men who killed his father and talks to him face-to-face to learn the long-awaited truth.

What made this event especially memorable was the "Tribeca Talks" panel discussion afterwards, in which director Deborah Scranton, producer Reid Carolin, and Jean-Pierre Sagahutu himself answered questions posed by moderator Jeff Chu and members of the audience. During the discussion, they shared the country of Rwanda through the eyes of Rwandans and how it differs from the media's portrayal. They talked about the process of making the film, how they went in without knowing what the story would be, and stumbled upon Sagahutu's tale of a quest for resolution and memories of nearly two and a half months spent hiding from the Hutus in a septic tank.

What a valuable afternoon this was. Film is such a powerful tool for empathy: transporting the audience to another place and another life, and dispelling years of apathy in record feature-length time.

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