Rwandan filmmaker Joël Karekezi’s film The Mercy of the Jungle has been nominated for the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from September 6 to 16 in Canada.
The 91-minute feature film highlights the wars in Congo through the eyes of two soldiers in the jungle, showcasing their struggle, weakness and hope.
Karekezi’s film got the nod among the 46 breakout films from 50 international storytellers, revealed by the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday as part of its 2018 Discovery line-up.
“Toronto is one of the biggest film festivals. I do not take that for granted. It is also a big opportunity for filmmakers across the world to showcase their work. It is indeed an honour for me and my team. This is a huge milestone of course,” Karekezi said.
Should his film win, it will not be Karekezi’s first time to win a film award, having won another back in 2014 for his short film The Pardon at the Amakula Film Festival held in Uganda.
29 of the films, including Karekezi’s, will make their debut world premiere at the festival, which is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world.
About ‘The Mercy of the Jungle’
Set in 1998 at the outset of the Second Congo War, Joël Karekezi’s second feature film is a propulsive odyssey about a pair of Rwandan soldiers navigating both wilderness and personal crises while lost behind enemy lines.
Kivu is the border where the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda meet. It is here, in a dense network of forests and hills, that Karekezi’s engrossing second feature unfolds.
Sergeant Xavier is a veteran of Rwanda’s ethnic conflicts, while Private Faustin is a fresh recruit eager to avenge the killing of his father and brothers. One night, their battalion scrambles away to hunt down a group of rebels, and Xavier and Faustin are left behind just as Congolese militia begin swarming the area.
They have no option but to head west, embarking on a long journey through a hostile landscape teeming with enemy patrols, wildlife, and mercenary mining operations. Thwarted by hunger and illness, the men must learn to rely on each other’s very different skill sets if they are to survive.
The Mercy of the Jungle excels as a propulsive, atmospheric odyssey about resourcefulness and friendship in which the jungle itself is a central character. But Karekezi also inculcates details that speak volumes about the countless smaller tragedies that are the by-products of such wars, above all the forced recruitment of child soldiers.
The senseless losses surrounding Xavier and Faustin grow to the point where neither will be able to fight for their lives without also considering the toll their actions take on others.