‘Sweet Dreams’ of peace through ice cream and drumming

You’ve probably heard or seen “Hotel Rwanda” and wonder what more can be said about this country’s terrible 1994 genocide and a country’s road to recovery. Rob and Lisa Fruchtman’s documentary, “Sweet Dreams,” turns to women who bring change through drumming and the sweet taste of ice cream. “Sweet Dreams” opens Friday at the Laemmle Music Hall and then on Saturday, 30 November 2013, at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.

Rwanda is a country that has suffered greatly from European colonialism. Playing one tribe against another was a good divide-and-conquer strategy for ruling a country, but not one that could bring lasting piece. English subtitles give a simple historical outline of the problem as an introduction.

After all the suffering, where neighbors killed neighbors and no family was left unscarred, women turned to the tradition. First they turned it around. Led by Kiki Katese, women of both tribes formed an all-female drumming troupe, Ingoma Nshya. Women had been forbidden to drum, but when someone asked why, they were told simply because the drums were too heavy for women to carry. Women who lived through the genocide learn how to cooperate and live together through drumming practice.

The Fruchtmans show us the group practicing and you detect no weakness. Still, there is pain as evidenced by individual stories and the scarred faces of some of the people we see.

Ingoma Nshya tours Rwanda and internationally, ending up in New York. There Katese meets organic ice cream entrepreneurs Jennie Dundas and Alexis Miesen who own Blue Marble Ice Cream.  Katese wants to open an ice cream shop in Rwanda with her fellow drummers. The shop will be named Inzozi Nziza, meaning Sweet Dreams.

Dundas and Miesen commit to this venture, even though they themselves only opened their business in 2007.

For Americans, ice cream is a part of summer and many birthday celebrations, but in this part of Rwanda, it’s largely unknown. If people have heard of it, they haven’t tasted it. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome–machines need to be procured and set up, the staff needs to learn how to work the machines and for some the concept of work ethic in a job outside of the household, home and family is problematic.

What I liked about this documentary is that it gives a positive look at what women are doing to change their lives and their culture with concrete results. The genocide is mentioned and dead bodies are shown, but the real focus is on women and even the healing qualities of music. “Sweet Dreams” is about one woman who changed the rhythm of life and found female friends to support and work together on stage and off.

Too often, movies and documentaries about war look at what happened to men and how the men were unable to protect the women. Too often we see war through a man’s point of view, but that’s only half the story. For change, for peace, men and women must work together. In this inspiring documentary,  we see that women can change the world and women reaching across culture can help each other. This is a beautiful tale of forgiveness and cooperation, hope and inspiration. This is about dreaming big and making them come true.

“Sweet Dreams” is in Kinyarwanda with English subtitles. Sweet Dreams” opens Friday at the Laemmle Music Hall and then on Saturday, 30 November 2013, at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.



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