Local Filmmaker Showcases Riveting Documentary at Bucks

John Fey, Centurion Staff

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On Oct. 4. Bucks had another showing of a documentary film in the Zlock Performing Arts Center, this time by Bucks County local Peter LeDonne, an advertising and marketing director, stage producer, and documentary filmmaker.
The showing was a part of the campuses’ DOC (documentaries on campus) Film Series,
The film was shown at 12:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., with LeDonne being present for the later showing. He took questions from viewers outside of Zlock after the film had ended.
His documentary short film is called “The Diary of Immaculée,” which he released in 2006. The film is about Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan native whose story of her survival during the Rwandan Genocide is the main focus of the film.
The film details how her life changed from the turmoil of the Rwandan Genocide, which lasted from April to July of 1994. LeDonne met Immaculée at a Holocaust remembrance event, “I was looking for my next story.”
“We talked for a few minutes and she said ‘I would like you to make a film about my story,’” said LeDonne.
During this short time period, 500,000 to 1,000,000 members of the Tutsi minority were killed by organized and vigilante Hutus, a tribe in Rwanda that historically feuded with the Tutsi population for generations.
“This feuding goes back to the Belgian occupation of Rwanda,” said LeDonne. The Tutsis worked with Belgian settlers in the early 20th century and had control of the Hutus for a long period of time. The genocide was sparked after the Hutu president of Rwanda was assassinated.
The film interviews Immaculée, who hid from the Hutu in the bathroom of her local Catholic priest with several woman she did not know. Her story of hiding mirrors that of Anne Frank, the Dutch teenager whose family hid from the Nazis in an attic during World War II.
Immaculée lived a normal life before the genocide. She attended the National University of Rwanda with hopes of a bright future and had a strong connection with her family. Her father was a wealthy Tutsi in the village she grew up in and she was the only daughter of her family; she has three brothers.
During the four months of the genocide, Immaculée lost most of her family. Her father was killed by vigilantes and his land was taken. Her mother was strangled to death on the side of the road. Two of her three brothers were killed in brutal manners; one was hacked to death and the other was shot and blown up against a wall in a soccer field with a group of other Tutsis. Only she and one of her brothers survived the genocide.
The film also touches on Immaculée’s strong Catholic faith, which she attributes to her survival and eventual forgiveness against the people who caused her so much pain. Toward the end of the documentary, Immaculée embraced a man who she revealed was part of the vigilante group that killed her family. Her acts of forgiveness toward the Hutu are a central theme of the film.
She prayed the rosary her faith gave her while hiding and it gave her peace in a time where no peace was to be seen. Her story is one of hope in desperate times and faith in the eyes of horror.
Immaculée currently lives in the United States with her husband and two children. She had published three books on her story, “The Rosary: The Prayer That Saved My Life”, “Led by Faith,” and “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.” She reunited with the women she shared the hiding place with for a piece on “60 Minutes” in 2006.
LeDonne was in Rwanda for less than a month while filming the documentary with Immaculée. He and his film crew had to be escorted around by bodyguards because tensions are still high in certain parts of the country.
“A lot of people there are still harboring anger over what had happened,” he said. He mentioned one occasion where they saw a group of men walking the streets with machetes, a main weapon used in the genocide so long ago.
“There are tons of stories like hers,” said LeDonne.
LeDonne has released a number of documentaries and other works in the past, including “Curtain Call,” his first documentary, and “Sister Rose’s Passion,” both of which were nominated for an Academy Award. He is currently working on a new Broadway musical.

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