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'Life After Death' (Conflicting Portrait of Present-day Rwandan Youth) Heading to 50th Chicago Int'l Film Fest

Shadow and Act By Sergio | Shadow and Act August 26, 2014 at 5:44PM

Am I just being sensitive or does this new documentary sound like it could have some problems?
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Life After Death

I’m not going to lie and tell you upfront that this new documentary, "Life After Death" - one of first films announced to be screened at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival (Oct 9-23) - doesn't have me (how shall I say) rather concerned.

The film, by director Joe Callander, which was shown in May at the Little Rock Film Festival, and The Brooklyn Academy of the Arts in June, follows a young man named Kwasa, who’s a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and, with his best friend, is scraping by, trying to make it day by day. However, when he comes into contact with a white American evangelical Christian philanthropic couple, seeking to help those less fortunate in Africa, he basically cons and uses them for his own gain, while the couple “turn a blind eye to his puckish scheming and unrepentant carousing."

See what I mean? Sounds like there might be some problems here... Is Kwasa a troubled young man struggling under the weight of a traumatic history? Or is he just another hustler who sees a chance to milk "Western kindness" for all he can?

Now I can’t say for sure, since I haven’t seen the film yet, and the trailer below doesn’t give any real sense of what the film is like, except that Callander seems to be going for some sort of comic, off-beat, quirky vibe.

In a past interview director Callander gave at the Little Rock Film Festival (where the film screened earlier this year), he did say that what drew him to this story was that, while he was in Rwanda doing some filming on another project, he met Kwasa, calling him outrageous, hilarious and outgoing, which apparently wasn't what he expected to find in the people in Rwanda. Callander said that he was drawn to Kwasa and his best friend Fils immediately and became obsessed with telling what he felt was a kind of story he hadn’t seen come out of Rwanda before - essentially, a present day portrait of a generation of people in their early 20′s who were born into the most horrific of events.

And when asked what he hopes audiences will take from the film, Callander said: "I hope they leave smiling and with a full heart, talking about all the strange and wonderful characters they’ve just spent 75 minutes with, and maybe wondering how life can be so exhilarating, absurd, hilarious, and horrific, all at the same time."

We’ll have to wait and see. 

Here’s the trailer:


This article is related to: Joe Callander, Festival Dispatch


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