Documentaries as a medium are a fantastic way to tell real stories. Whenever a film tells a true story, there are always some things that are cut or may be added to make the story more cinematic. Documentaries tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The makers of this documentary clearly went a bit too far with this benefit.
Narratives Of Modern Genocide introduces us to two men. These two men come from Cambodia and Burundi respectively and they both experienced the horrors of genocide. Both managed to escape their countries and emigrate to the United States. Now they tell us their stories from the comfort of their Texas homes.
Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye are the two refugees in question. Both are clearly very lovely people that have made their lives from the ground up and have become very successful. It’s quite clear that the director of the film felt the same way about them. Paul Allen Hunton (the director) didn’t want to give these men any kind of instructions for fear of being rude it would seem. They tell their stories, which are truly horrible, but they’ll begin to digress frequently and will be stuck on a point for ages that really doesn’t fit the titular narrative. If they had been told to get back on topic a bit more this documentary would have flowed a lot better. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the talking is mumbled.
Aside from the film refusing to cut scenes down, it overall feels like it was made by students. The poorly recorded sound is unforgivable but the cinematography is also bland which isn’t helped by the fact the camera isn’t always held properly and shakes. The soundtrack is almost offensive. The same stock music guitar riff plays basically throughout the whole documentary. This means that you have an interview where a man is telling us about how he watched his entire village burned to death in front of him while the instrumental to an Ed Sheeran love song plays. There is some animation every so often to illustrate the stories that are being told. It’s incredibly basic and has no personality, but it’s a welcome change of visuals compared to the cinematography.
What adds to the student film vibe of Narratives Of Modern Genocide is the scale of it. Everyone who is interviewed, including the genocide survivors, historians, and some charity workers all live in Texas. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to assume they all work at the same university. This choice doesn’t give a very global scope to these stories and it’s incredibly lazy. It seems like they just looked in the Yellow Pages and asked around to see if anyone knew about genocide.
Narratives Of Modern Genocide tells some truly horrific stories. In the right hands, this documentary could have a film festival darling and would have shown audiences that the legacy of the Holocaust still haunts us. It’s just a shame that the stories fell into completely the wrong hands.
Dir: Paul Allen Hunton
Featuring: Sichan Siv, Gilbert Tuhabonye
Prd: Jeffrey Brown, Paul Allen Hunton, Aliza Wong
Music: Nathan Hussey
Run time: 1hr 6mins
Narratives of Modern Genocide is available on Digital and DVD now.