I had been waiting to watch “Big Sonia” since the day the film appeared on the official selection list for the Rwanda Film Festival 2017. Prior to this, I had quietly been following its forays in different film festivals across the globe.
Notably, the film left an indelible mark at Cleveland International Film Festival where it scooped the Best Film prize.
However, it was at Napa Valley Film Festival that it proved its mettle. Big Sonia went ahead to grab two prestigious awards in a hotly contested competition; the best Documentary and the Audience Award.
It follows a moving story of Sonia Warshawski, a 91-year-old Sonia a great grand mother, businesswoman and Holocaust survivor who’s served an eviction notice for her tailor shop, which has thrived for 35 years. She must choose between setting up a new shop or retiring. The specter of retirement prompts Sonia to resist her hallowing past as a refugee and witness to genocide.
On my way to Kigali Library, I suddenly realised that the film scene has dramatically changed. A good number of Kigalians had already booked themselves at the venue hours earlier to secure the best spots.
I must have missed the first few minutes of the film because I found the film already playing. I had to catch up since hitting the rewind button was not an option in a film festival setting. I was quickly introduced to Sonia who puts on stylish outfits and bright lipstick every day she would go to work in her tailoring shop. Even though her business is the only one she still opens it in an empty shopping mall.
As she moves around her shop, you get to realize that, this cheerful woman is a Holocaust survivor. As a teenager, Sonia together with her mother and sister were sent to concentration camps in Poland during World War II. But currently Sonia give talks to high school students and prisoners about her bad experiences. This she hopes would inspire others to become agents of peace and not hate.
After the film credit roll faded out, I was eager to grab some thoughts about this great piece of art from the audience.
Damascene Simubara, a local journalist had some deep feelings about the film “The story of Sonia is told in a deeply emotional documentary film. It goes ahead to prove the resilience of the human spirit, and the fact that, love always wins over hate. I won’t mind watching it again,” He explains.
“I find a great connection about this film with our Rwandan history. The film deals with trauma and healing. It successfully illustrates the power of telling the truth as a way to heal everyone,” Alice Kamikazi, an actress noted
“I think it was a very interesting film. It shares a moving story of a genocide survivor who promotes peace. It’s definitely one single story that everyone in the world and especially in Africa need to watch” Steve Hakizimana explains.