Heart-wrenching genocide film premiers in Rwanda

Saturday June 24 2023

A scene from Bazigaga. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE | NM


Most films made about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have the similar storytelling style. However, Bazigaga is one film that differs when it comes to recounting victims' experiences.

Directed by Jo Ingabire Moys, the 2020 short film is inspired by the true story of Zura Karuhimbi, a Rwandan traditional healer who pretended to be a witch doctor to save lives during the genocide, which claimed close to one million people.

Starring Eliane Umuhire, Ery Nzaramba, Roger Noël Ineza and Maély Mahavande as the lead cast, the 27-minute Kinyarwanda film with English subtitles produced by Boris Mendza follows mind griping incidents that happened during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Raging times

The film’s opening scenes introduce us to the raging times in the countryside, during the genocide, amidst the brutal killings where Karembe, a pastor together with her little daughter are fleeing from angry, blood-thirsty Hutu militias.

They end up in the house of Bazigaga, the female traditional healer, who lets them in and hides them.


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It isn’t long before the militias storm the house, and as she steps out, they seem frightened of her status, because traditional healers are feared for their sacred might and influence.

As Bazigaga is confronted about the Inyenzis ('cockroaches' a term used by militias to refer to Tutsi), she scares them off, with threats which they fear.

What is strange is why the militias camp outside the house as they wait to strike.

The film switches scenes to show inside the Bazigaga's house, and her interactions with Karembe.

After a closer look at odd items like animal skulls, tree roots, leaves and gourds, Karembe trembles.

We also learn that he had lost his wife to the genocidaires.

Bazigaga attends to Karembe’s ailing daughter and dresses her wounds. Amidst this, Karembe is initially hesitant but in a conversation, Bazigaga inquires why the holy man, being hunted for death would be desperately seeking refuge away from the same people he used to preach to on Sundays.

And as she puts Karembe's daughter to sleep, they discuss how they weren’t different.

For instance, Bazigaga, a traditional healer, who by society is deemed evil reveals how the same Christians and staunch followers of the pastor used to visit her for spiritual consultation and 'medicine' in the evenings.

Karembe is further shocked to learn how Bazigaga who he had deemed evil was also friends with his late wife, “She could occasionally visit, with her small black Bible, and preach to me,” she says.

Karembe is broken by the reality of how the lady she had preached against, and deemed a witch, dangerous and an omen was a different person.

On learning of how the militias plan to storm the house to kill the pastor, Bazigaga hides him in her backyard water tank.
When they break in, and find no one but Bazigaga, they are angered.

Amidst the threats and interrogation, she calls the gods, then heavy rain, an earthquake, and thunderstorm complement the scene.
The militias flee in fear, after shooting her.

The film’s final scene shows Karambe and his daughter’s returning from hiding only to find Bazigaga bleeding.

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But as they try to save her life, she insists they flee for their lives and danger from what would come.

Hardest of times

This film unveils how Christianity was wrecked apart by evil, and how faith was tested in the hardest of times.

Away from the film, before her death in 2018, Zura Karuhimbi was awarded the Rwandan Campaign Against Genocide Medal in 2006.

The film’s recent Rwandan premiere follows its emergence as the first Rwandan film to be nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in February this year.

The film has also been nominated at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival under the 2023 Regards d'Afrique category, 2023 Love Your Shorts Film Festival for Best International Film International Competition category, and for the Best International Short Film category at the 2023 RamDam Film Festival.

It has also been nominated at the 2022 Big Syn International Film Festival, London for the Winner Jury Award - Best Producer and at the 2022 Festival du Film Francophone d'Angoulême under the Valois Magelis Best Short Film category.