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“God Sleeps in Rwanda” provides insight on living with HIV after the Genocide

By Jake Yarmus

Section: News

April 3, 2009

God sleeps in rwanda: Supreetha Gubbala ‘12 introduces the film “God Sleeps in Rwanda” in Levin Ballroom monday night.<br />PHOTO BY Judy Kaufman/The Hoot

God sleeps in rwanda: Supreetha Gubbala ‘12 introduces the film “God Sleeps in Rwanda” in Levin Ballroom monday night.
PHOTO BY Judy Kaufman/The Hoot

“[HIV medication] costs 550 Rwandan Francs. I make 551 Rwandan Francs a month. I cannot afford the medicine for my child,” Odette, the HIV positive mother of three living in rural Rwanda said into the camera.

Having contracted the virus shortly after her marriage, Odette is lucky because only one of her three children has the virus. She is also a genocide survivor who saw the death of her husband and family in the struggle. Now, she is too poor to afford medication to help heal her child.

However, her story, like many others, doesn’t just end with that fact. She works as a National Policewoman, and is pursuing her law degree because “my opportunity is not money. My opportunity is to do something for people.”

Odette is one of many female survivors featured in the documentary “God Sleeps in Rwanda,” which was shown Tuesday in Levin Ballroom. Her words of hope and focus on the future resonate throughout the film.

Other survivors featured in the film range from a rape victim who has watched all of her friends die of HIV, while she remains safe, to a 12 year-old girl running a house full of younger siblings. The documentary follows these women as they find grounding in which to progress from the horrors they witnessed in 1993.

This aspect of the film distinguishes it from the other film shown that night. The other film, a short by photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik, entitled “Intended Consequences,” similarly featured female Rwandan genocide survivors. The films had many differences – this one was shorter, more artistically shot, and only focused on women who had born a child from the rape they suffered during the genocide.

One of the events hosts, Noam Schouster ’11 pointed out a key distinction between Torgovnik’s film and “God Sleeps in Rwanda,” saying that “[Torgovnik’s] film really makes them seem like victims. Sometimes they may appear to be just victims, but they are really survivors.”

Though Schouster, and fellow hosts Margo Moinester ’09 and Supreetha Gubbala ’12 had critiques regarding Torgovnik’s film, Shouster still saw the value in the project, calling it an “incredible work.”

Accompanying these two films was Mochilla, a Brandeis student-led band, who sought to commemorate the night by playing their first song in the honor of the all of the “Rwandan mothers.”

The entire night cost around 5$ a head, with all of the money to be sent to Torgovnik’s foundation that supports the education of children featured in his work.

The funds raised from the 40 people in the room will help send 3-5 kids to school for a year, Gubbala pointed out. At the end of the event, Gubbala announced that the display of Torgovnik’s work in the Women and Gender Research Center would be leaving on April 7th.

That night, a collection of students and faculty will read the women’s testimonies as a final farewell.

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