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What is “Munyurangabo”? And Why Do You Need to Know About It?

Of all the films I saw in 2008, two stood out above the rest.

But neither of them are in my “Favorites of 2008” list. That’s because they haven’t been released yet.

Since then, The Class has been released. It’s showing now, and I have just turned in an article about it for Christianity Today Movies. Hopefully, they’ll post it soon. (The movie’s playing in theaters NOW, so don’t miss it!)

But there was another film that won my heart, a powerful film about two young boys who become friends, even though they live on opposite sides of a civil war.

That movie is Munyurangabo. It’s filmed in Rwanda, and the actors are not professionals — they’re the people who really live there, in the midst of that strife. Nevertheless, it is convincing, compelling, and poetic.

I encourage you to read this excellent examination of the film by my friend Darren Hughes of Long Pauses. The article was published in Sojourners.

Thus, I am overjoyed to see this announcement from the extraordinary film distributor Film Movement:

March 2nd, 2009 (New York, NY) –

Film Movement (, the North American film distribution company that brings first-run, award-winning independent and foreign films to fans all across the country, announced today their acquisition of MUNYURANGABO, an International Film Festival favorite exploring the lives, adventures and travails of two Rwandan teenagers. Directed by first-time American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung, MUNYURANGABO is the first narrative feature shot in the native Kinyarwanda dialect, and its entirely non-professional cast and crew consisted of genocide orphans, returned refugees, and other undereducated locals barely making a living in the village where the film was shot. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), and was also selected for the Berlin Int’l Film Festival, Toronto Int’l Film Festival and New Directors/New Films, among others, in 2008. MUNYURANGABO will open in theaters in late May, 2009.

“An astonishing and thoroughly masterful debut… This is, flat out, the discovery of this year’s Un Certain Regard batch”
–Robert Koehler, Variety


After stealing a machete from a market in Kigali, Munyurangabo and his friend, Sangwa, leave the city on a journey tied to their pasts. Munyurangabo wants justice for his parents who were killed in the genocide, and Sangwa wants to visit the home he deserted years ago. Though they plan to visit Sangwa’s home for just a few hours, the boys stay for several days. From two separate tribes, their friendship is tested when Sangwa’s wary parents disapprove of Munyurangabo, warning that “Hutus and Tutsis are supposed to be enemies.”


Winner – Grand Jury Prize, AFI Fest

Winner – Best First Film, Mexico City Int’l Contemporary FF

Winner – Best Narrative Feature, Sarasota FF

Winner – Peace and Cultural Understanding Award , Wine Country FF

Nominated – Breakthrough Director, Gotham Awards

Nominated – Someone to Watch, Independent Spirit Awards

Official Selection – Cannes FF (Un Certain Regard), Berlin Int’l FF, Toronto Int’l FF, Pusan Int’l FF, Rotterdam Int’l FF, Sao Paulo Int’l FF, London Int’l FF…

The acquisition of MUNYURANGABO was negotiated by Film Movement’s Adley Gartenstein, President, and Rebeca Conget, VP of Acquisitions and Distribution, and UMedia’s Frederic Corvez.

“This is an incredibly special film, in many ways, that we believe will soon become a world cinema classic. We feel extremely proud to give Munyurangabo a home in North America, and look forward to sharing its compelling story and artistry with audiences.” said Rebeca Conget, Film Movement’s VP of Acquisitions and Distribution.

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  1. March 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm — Reply

    Thanks. I will keep these in mind.

  2. March 13, 2009 at 6:20 pm — Reply

    So thrilled to hear this. I saw this movie a few weeks ago for the first time and talked with the director Lee Isaac Chung. Such a beautiful film. Hope people go see it.

  3. March 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    A friend from Rwanda showed me this film recently. It was raw, but moving. It’s great to hear that it’s going to get a release finally after all the critical acclaim.

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Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet

Novelist and critic Jeffrey Overstreet teaches writing (Seattle Pacific University) and film studies (Northwest University and Houston Baptist University). He's written a memoir of moviegoing and faith (Through a Screen Darkly, Baker, 2007) and a fantasy series that begins with Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread, Random House, 2007-11). He's worked since 2001 as a film critic and columnist at Christianity Today, and he's been a regular contributor to Image, Paste, and Christ & Pop Culture. His writing has been recognized by The New Yorker and The Seattle Times. He regularly speaks at universities, conferences, and churches in the U.S. and abroad. Want to invite him to teach or speak? Email