SPOILER ALERT: Watch out for spoilers of the Trees of Peace.
Just as movies reflect the beliefs and values of the culture that produces them, they also help to shape and influence people’s perspectives. As individuals, we are aware of the challenges and difficulties surrounding us. The knowledge we receive, especially from movies, can help us understand how to deal with these challenges while also helping us understand that the challenges we face are often minimal compared to those with more significant struggles than our own.
Trees of Peace, a movie inspired by true-life events, is an example of a film that shapes and influences people’s perspectives. The movie brings to light the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi when armed militia from the Hutu community brutally slaughtered people from the Tutsi community and even moderate Hutus. While the Hutus were in charge of the genocide, a threat was posed to the lives of moderate Hutus.
Trees of Peace is a unique movie that takes place in a storage basement beneath a kitchen of a moderate Hutu woman. We were not shown everything that goes on outside, but the dialogues did justice to the theme of the movie and the message being passed across. Through the small opening in the storage wall, we witness one dreadful sight reflecting the crimes taking place around Rwanda.
In the movie, four women take refuge in a confined space, forced to fight for their lives while the murder of other people takes place. Annick is a pregnant Hutu woman whose house they were all hiding in with the help of her husband; Jeanette is a nun with a steadfast belief in Christ; Peyton is an American visiting for volunteerism. And Mutusi is a young Tutsi girl. At first, these women were wary of each other, but they ultimately formed a strong bond despite their different backgrounds. Each one had a reason to doubt the other, but the conversations they shared amongst themselves allowed them to see beyond their weaknesses.
In the beginning, we saw that these women had one thing in common — they all went through troubled times. As they shared their stories, the audience could see that they all shared a common suffering. Annick has suffered from four miscarriages, Peyton is looking to atone for the sins of killing her brother, has attempted suicide, and Jeanette and Mutesi have been sexually assaulted. The tragic stories shared by these women formed a sort of sisterhood between them. They opened their arms wide to accept each other regardless of their shortcomings and troubled lives.
Though Mutesi is troublesome at the beginning, she too submits to the will of having shared sufferings with the women. She says she does not want to die with her anger towards the men who raped her and the women who stood in silence to witness it.
When these women shared their stories, they embarked on a journey of endurance. They engaged in various activities to pass the time. They took joy in playing games, drawing portraits of one another, and reading a book called “Seeds of Love, Trees of Peace’, a children’s book that Peyton carries in her bag. We could see Annick learning to read and pronounce despite her age. They painted the walls with their names, filling them with memories of themselves.
As days passed by in the basement, there were moments when fear, frustration, anger, and panic began to set in. At these times, these women fight each other. It was like a battle of each other’s lives and beliefs. These women begin to have hallucinations and nightmares. In several cases, they run out of food, and their health deteriorates.
A day or two trapped within a basement would be difficult for anyone, but these women spent 81 days locked within this confined space. They had to put up with each other’s flaws and beliefs. They couldn’t even fight out loud during misunderstandings to avoid being heard or seen. The pain and fear of these women make one wonder how the people outside the basement walls feel. The universality of these women’s pain binds them together in sisterhood, and they endured the unfortunate situation.
Trees of Peace nudges the audience to seek hope, endure, and look out for each other as these women did during the genocide.