“There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated one million people were killed, and millions more displaced, Jean Pierre Sagahutu’s two parents, four brothers and three sisters were murdered. For the next 15 years, he scoured the countryside for answers to his father’s death.
In 2008, Rwandan president Paul Kagame released a controversial report that made chilling assertions about the French government’s alleged involvement in the genocide, setting off an international imbroglio. Three months later, his closest aide, Rose Kabuye, was arrested on charges of international terrorism, raising suspicions that the arrest was politically motivated.
In EARTH MADE OF GLASS, director Deborah Scranton (“The War Tapes”) explores issues of peace, retribution, accountability and justice, ultimately discovering a blueprint for ending the cycle of violence. Examining the personal and political repercussions of the deadly conflict in this east African country.
“After my previous films about the perspective of U.S. soldiers fighting on the ground in Iraq, I was fascinated by the questions of what happens after war ends,” says Scranton. “How does a country successfully rebuild, move on – both on an individual, personal level, as well as on the international level as a nation?”
When Scranton met Rwanda president Paul Kagame in the U.S. in May 2008, he detailed the new path the country was taking, emphasizing building the peace, reconciliation and a desire to lead the country forward on its own terms, not those of the international community. Their lengthy conversation inspired her, along with producer Reid Carolin and cinematographer P.H. O’Brien, to travel to Rwanda and begin documenting the country’s efforts at recovery and prosperity.
EARTH MADE OF GLASS also tells the story of genocide survivor Jean Pierre Sagahutu’s quest to solve the mystery surrounding the murder of his father Joseph, a doctor who was killed on the side of a road on his way to work. Across the countryside where the killing took place, he doggedly pursued the truth, though unsure what he would do if he found it. As intrepid as any detective, Sagahutu interviewed villagers, refusing to accept their silence and claims of ignorance.
In August 2008, as a violent conflict raged in neighboring Congo, president Kagame released a chilling report detailing the French government’s alleged complicity in the 1994 genocide. Three months later, France arrested Rose Kabuye, Kagame’s closest aide, on charges of terrorism, leading the president to engage in high-stakes diplomacy to secure her release.
Sagahutu, who spent more than two months hiding in a septic tank during the genocide to escape the fate of his parents and siblings, found himself facing complex feelings as he closed in on a face-to-face meeting with one of his father’s killers. With his own son to consider, the future began to weigh more heavily on him than the past.
Kagame and Sagahutu never meet, but the film shows how the efforts of a president and an ordinary man become inextricably linked through a love of country, an insatiable need for truth and a hope for peace. EARTH MADE OF GLASS suggests that uncovering the truth may be the greatest step towards peace. “We learn that above all else, the need for truth becomes paramount,” says Scranton. “Without truth, there can be no peace.”
Sagahutu declares, “The cycle of hatred and violence stops with me. I will not pass it down to my children.”
Actor Channing Tatum, one of the film’s executive producers, notes, “I sincerely feel like the messages in this film offer up a path to ending hatred and violence both in nations around the world, and in small communities across our country.”
Deborah Scranton made her feature-film directorial debut in 2006 with “The War Tapes,” a critically acclaimed, first-person account of the war in Iraq. She also wrote, directed and produced “Bad Voodoo’s War,” an intimate portrayal of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. A visiting fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, Scranton worked with the Global Media Project in the Global Security Program and started her career in television as a special assignment reporter.
Producer Reid Carolin’s credits include the upcoming independent feature “Ten Year” and the 2008 Iraq war drama “Stop-Loss,” which he created with director Kimberly Peirce. The president of actor Channing Tatum’s production company, he has worked as a viral marketing executive at Paramount Pictures and sits on the board of the Red Feather Development Group, a non-profit that builds sustainable homes on American Indian Reservations.
EARTH MADE OF GLASS is directed by Deborah Scranton; producers, Reid Carolin and Deborah Scranton; written by Reid Carolin and Deborah Scranton; director of photography, P.H. O’Brien; score, Johan Soderqvist; executive producers, Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan Tatum.