Act of Kindness is a true story about a young New Zealander’s search amongst the streets and shanties of Rwanda for a homeless, crippled beggar who years earlier had helped him out of a dangerous predicament. Hopeful of repaying his debt of gratitude to this unlikely samaritan, he pursued a seemingly hopeless task, tracking one man amongst ten million – a man he only knew by a single name … ‘Johnson’.
It’s a small, simple story, with a large message:
“kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see” (Mark Twain)
The film offers an inspirational example of empathy and a rare positive perspective on a place mired in tragedy. Rwanda may be forever haunted, but life goes on, and its people deserve to be seen as more than just victims and executioners.
NZIFF Programme Notes
First NZ International Film festival Screenings have now been announced.
Saturday 25th July, 3.15pm, Paramount Theatre
Monday 3rd August, 12.00pm, Film Archive, Nga Taonga
Thursday, 6th August, 11.45pm, Film Archive, Nga Taonga
Friday 31 July, 1.30pm Academy Theatre
Saturday 1 August, 1.00pm Academy Theatre
More screenings in other centres TBC.
(Photo: Fabrice Kirwa with camera & curious onlookers)
Act of Kindness has been quite some years in the making.
In 2007 Sven Pannell went back to Rwanda to try and find and reconnect with ‘Johnson’, the homeless man who had assisted him almost a decade earlier. He was moved by an inner sense of obligation that had grown steadily over the years. Pannell had nothing to go on except one name, and his memories of what the man had told him. He was a homeless beggar, a survivor of the genocide who had lost his wife and eight children during the killing. He was, perhaps, the last person one might have expected to help a stranger in trouble.
Though Sven escaped his predicament, he left Rwanda in circumstances that made it impossible for him to thank his benefactor. Over the years he increasingly felt a debt of gratitude that needed to be acknowledged and repaid. He was ultimately tipped into action by the idea that his search might be an interesting topic for a documentary. And so, with a camera in hand, he returned to Rwanda.
In the spirit of a true optimist, he thoroughly underestimated the difficulty of both his quest, and the attendant problems of making a film about it.
But here it is at last, it’s done.
Here is a link to a trailer:
If the link isn’t working, please cut and paste the url into your browser.
And here is an interview with Sven Pannell, recorded on NZ National Radio, Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan.