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March 3, 2009

Munyurangabo finally gets a theatrical release

Talk about coincidences. CT Movies editor Mark Moring left on a missions trip to Rwanda two days ago, and now two -- not one, but two -- Rwanda-themed movies that premiered on the festival circuit two years ago have finally been picked up for an American theatrical release in the next few months.

I mentioned Shake Hands with the Devil, a dramatic film based on the memoirs of UN peacekeeping commander Roméo Dallaire, last Friday; Regent Releasing plans to release it in the summer.

And now, today, Film Movement has announced plans to release the critically-acclaimed independent film Munyurangabo in May. (CT Movies critic Jeffrey Overstreet has the full press release at his blog.)

The latter film may be especially interesting to Christian filmgoers as it was produced by people who were visiting Rwanda on a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) trip at the time the film was made.

When Munyurangabo premiered at the Cannes film festival in May 2007, Variety critic Robert Koehler sang its praises, and noted:
The sheer confidence and artistic will that 28-year-old Chung exercises here can't be overstated, especially in contrast to the few short films of little note he made during his brief stint as a Yale film student, and the fact he wasn't planning to make a feature while he was teaching at a Christian relief camp in Rwanda. The narrative and dialogue arose entirely out of the circumstances Chung and Anderson observed. They cast at-risk kids like Rutagengwa and Ndorunkundiye -- both magnificent in their roles, along with Nkurikiyinka as the father -- and relied on a form of improvisation that never feels sloppy or loose on screen.
The Salt Lake Tribune added some interesting details about Chung, who studied film at the University of Utah, and his team:
Chung shot the film in 11 days last summer, when he traveled to Kigali, Rwanda with former U. classmate Jenny Lund and screenwriter Samuel Anderson to teach a course in filmmaking and photography at Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a non-denominational Christian relief base. The 15 students served as the film's crew. . . .

"Munyurangabo" is the first feature-length narrative made in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda's primary language, which Chung doesn't speak. He relied on a translator to communicate with the two street kids he cast as his stars, both of whom he found through YWAM's soccer-outreach program. . . .

Chung, Lund and Anderson's production company, Almond Tree Films, will return to Kigali next summer to encourage Rwanda's native population to learn filmmaking. They also plan to donate the film's proceeds to Rwanda, Lund said: "After we cover costs, it's going to be donated to YWAM and various other organizations for scholarships and development."
See also the excellent profile of Chung, and the circumstances that led to the making of this film, that Darren Hughes wrote for Sojourners magazine last year.

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