Every once in a while, a documentary will be released so perfectly timed with current events that it feels almost surreal. With the attacks on the Capital and the continued calls for insurrection, this film feels more important than ever. Narratives of Modern Genocide, directed Paul Allen Hunton, invites the viewer to look at incidents of genocide through the first hand accounts of two survivors: Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye. It also serves as a warning of what can happen if violence and hatred in a country goes unchecked.
After the holocaust the world said, “never again,” yet genocide is happening in the world right now. The stories we forget to tell, of the survivors we never knew, will haunt us until we listen and act. ?Narratives of Modern Genocide challenges the audience to experience first-person accounts of survivors of genocide. Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye share how they escaped the killing fields of Cambodia, and the massacre of school children in Burundi. Mixing haunting animation, and expert context the film confronts our notion that the holocaust was the last genocide.
Sichan Siv’s tale of surviving the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia is an incredible story of bravery and sheer will. He endured a labor camp and then fled towards Thailand on foot without food, using only the sun and moon as his guide. His face beams as he describes his love of his new homeland: America. He would go on to work as a translator for George W. Bush.
Gilbert Tuhabonye was a child in Burundi, Africa, where he was a natural runner who loved to race up the hills of his country. This skill would help him as his school was attacked by Hutus. His teacher and classmates were burned alive in front of him. Through luck and tenacity, he survived. Like Siv, he is proudly living in America and teaches track in addition to running an organization that provides clean water in Burundi.
I went into Narratives of Modern Genocide with some trepidation, as genocide is a difficult thing to watch. But by focusing on the story of the two men, Hunton has put two wonderful human faces to a hard subject. The director skillfully intercuts the interviews with archived footage and artistic animation. This film also illustrates the remarkable effect that the American Dream can have on a person. The American Dream is—and always has been—for everyone. Most importantly, it’s a reminder that we must forever remember and learn from our past.