Trees of Peace strikingly and harrowingly depicts the psychological toll that war takes on its victims.
The Netflix film Trees of Peace, written and directed by Alanna Brown, is based on the reality of Rwanda's genocide against the Tutsi community in 1994. It follows the journey of four women from different backgrounds who form an unbreakable bond while they are trapped and hiding during the genocide in Rwanda.
Rwandan actress Eliane Umuhire who plays the role of Annick, a pregnant Hutu woman narrates the story as pages from a journal her character keeps while hiding from the Hutu violence against the minority Tutsis, and against “moderate” Hutus like her and her teacher-husband Francois.
Annick, while in hiding, provides shelter for 3 different women – Peyton (Ella Cannon), Muteshi (Bola Koleosho), and Jeanette (Charmaine Bingwa) during the attacks. They all hide inside the underground food storage basement in her kitchen. While in hiding, her Hutu husband Francois (Tongayi Chirisa) ensures that everything will be fine once the UN intervenes. He promises his wife Annick that he’ll come within a day to rescue them all.
Days pass by, and there’s no sign of help. The women are locked inside the underground storage that only opens from the outside. Through a small window, they watch the Hutu men commit heinous crimes while they do everything to survive the deadly horror of war they’re witnessing.
From reading the Trees of Peace book to confessions to fights and unity, the film shows everything that happens on the other side of the war. The film is entirely shot inside the confined space of an underground storage with reactions from the outer world shown through the views of the women as the story progresses.
A compact, tense, well-acted and quietly gripping tale of endurance marks Alanna Brown's writer-director debut. She crafted a vivid picture of every twist and turn that is happening with the characters and by doing so the audience is automatically drawn into the story as it nicely progresses, and they cannot help but be curious as to whether the women will survive.
With their portrayals of fear, uncertainty, and trauma, Eliane Umuhire, Bola Koleosho, Charmaine Bingwa, and Ella Cannon do a brilliant job. In a space so confined, one can only imagine how difficult it would have been to film such a distressing story. Through their character interpretations, each character complements the other's strengths. In these roles, Brown and her actors make characters more than stereotypes. Beneath the surface, you can see the kind of character each of them represents.
Trees of Peace strikingly and harrowingly depicts the psychological toll that war takes on its victims. The moving drama unapologetically places the audience at the center of the story, giving a great insight into Rwanda's history, which few people will know, it is an uncomfortable and chilling tale of survival.
Currently streaming on Netflix.