AfricAvenir premieres Grey Matter


AfricAvenir premieres Grey Matter, by Kivu Ruhorahoza (Rwanda, 2011, 100 min) on Saturday, 27 April, 2013, at Goethe Centre, 7pm.

There’s a revealing image late in “Grey Matter”: a lingering close-up of wind chimes made from keys and shards of green glass. Shortly before, the glass was part of a bottle, shattered by a young man as a means to slit his own throat. From despair, art.

That image has further significance in this acutely probing film by the Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza. “Grey Matter” is itself a collection of cinematic shards. It begins with Balthazar (Hervé Kimenyi) seeking to raise money to make a movie, but a government agency tells him that the subject is too small and downbeat. We can judge for ourselves; sections of that movie are the center of “Grey Matter.”

In that film within the film two siblings grapple with codependency and post-traumatic stress disorder after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
There are no emotional fireworks here, just smoldering, quiet, lonely agony. Ruth Shanel Nirere is especially compelling as the resourceful and tough caretaker sister, Justine. As she hopes, the salvation of her shattered brother, Yvan (Ramadhan Shami Bizimana), is his work as an artist, the eventual wind chimes.

In the film’s movement among realities (including the brother’s false reality, with sounds of gunfire and visions of burning bodies) art is also the apparent salvation of the filmmaker Balthazar. In the final scene the camera pulls slowly back from a close-up of a singer to reveal moviemaking apparatus and a crew. A single hand rests on Balthazar’s shoulder, seeming to comfort him as he creates. This subtle moment has a softness, a heart, that lifts the film beyond any narrative tricks.

Those in the audience can pull back even further, in their minds, to see a wider view of Yvan, Balthazar and “Grey Matter”: all sorts of shards can seem of a piece when illuminated.

Grey Matter was written and directed by Kivu Ruhorahoza; director of photography, Ari Wegner; edited by Antonio Rui Ribeiro; music by Sophie Nzayisenga; produced by Mr. Ruhorahoza and Dominic Allen. At the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, Museum of Modern Art, as part of the Global Lens 2012 series. In Kinyarwanda and French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

This film is not rated.
Features: Ruth Shanel Nirere (Justine), Ramadhan Shami Bizimana (Yvan) and
Hervé Kimenyi (Balthazar).