Images courtesy of Alanna Brown.
As the Rwandan genocide breaks out, four women, a Hutu, two Tutsis and an American volunteer, hide in a 4-by-4-foot storage compartment where they expect to remain for just a few hours.
Hours turn into days. Days become months.
For 81 days, these women are trapped, surviving with little food, some crayons and a children’s book titled Seeds of Love, Trees of Peace.
These are some of the details from the plot of Long Beach-based screenwriter, director and producer Alanna Brown’s upcoming film, Trees of Peace, which reflects true events of the Rwandan Genocide from the perspective of these four women.
Brown, from A.BrownGirlFilms, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to obtain a funding goal of $65,000 to cover cost productions, which begin later this spring. The campaign will end February 16. With six days to go, supporters have given $46,260.
Brown was inspired to produce the film after following her research for an interview with Francine Lefrak, founder of Same Sky, a trade initiative that works to create employment opportunities for international women coming out of extreme poverty.
Upon her research, Brown learned about Rwandan women who had to hide in small spaces for the length of the genocide, which happened more than 20 years ago. Today, Rwanda has more women appointed to government than any other nation in the world.
“I want the audience to be educated about the women of Rwanda and what they went through and what they’ve risen to,” Brown told the Post. “We are powerful as women. We can stand up in the face of incredible tragedy and incredible challenge and still rise up and achieve incredible things.”
The four women are filled with fear and distrust as they’re forced to overhear the sounds of a woman being raped and killed, neighbors turning on each other, children screaming and the maelstrom of war. Each of the women also experience varying internal conflicts.
As time confined to the storage compartment drags on, the American woman teaches the Rwandans how to read English using the children’s book. They write, play games and draw pictures all over the walls of the small room. Eventually, they form a sisterhood and learn what it truly means to find forgiveness, acceptance, purpose and peace.
Brown explained that she wanted the audience to relate to the characters like they are stuck in the storage room with them, experiencing the same problems and embracing the same relationships, with the intention of making it easier for viewers to humanize the people of Rwanda.
“We would never imagine a genocide like that would break out here,” she said. “But just imagine that, at one time, the people in Rwanda would never have imagined something like that would ever happen to them, you know, based on someone’s race [...] I think that’s something people just need to be careful about, where their mind goes, and be aware that mentality can take hold. That’s pretty terrifying.”
This is the second of two films produced by Brown, who actually went to school to study communications. However, dissatisfied with her career, she decided to change direction and pursue acting.
In school, one of her instructors had given her class an assignment to produce their own short films. . What was supposed to be a five-minute short became a 30-page script.
“The story of the characters kind of took a life of their own, and I just loved the story so much,” Brown said. “I had such a clear vision for the short that I was like, ‘I want to make this.’’’
Shortly after making this decision, Brown consulted a peer, who was also working on a film, to ask, “What do I do?” and “How do I do this?”
Since then, Brown attended the University of California, Los Angeles Screenwriting Program in 2014 and has signed with Paradigm Talent Agency’s David Boxerbaum and Adrian Garcia as well as Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment as a screenwriter. She also produced her first short film in 2011 called 1426 Chelsea Street.
Though women have endlessly pushed for equal rights and representation in the workforce, a 2016 report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University revealed that women directors working on the 250-highest grossing domestic releases declined from 9 percent in 2015 to 7 percent.
Because of this, more narratives in movies are often seen through the lens of a white, male perspective. However, filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe in 2014, are fighting to defy the odds.
“With the Women’s March, with a world that aches for unity, tolerance and understanding, we need more films told from new perspectives, revealing diverse and inclusive narratives,” Brown said. “Trees of Peace is a rare film that can really elevate women both in front of and behind the camera, both narratively and politically. So, for those readers who support the arts, now is a critical time to support women in film.”
To see the Trees of Peace trailer and make a pledge, visit the campaign website here.