Almost a million people fell victim to the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, around 250,000 women were raped—systematic violence against women was a recurring means of male-dominated warfare in Rwanda as well as in many other war zones in the world. Today, perpetrators and victims live as next-door neighbors. And while women have become more influential within Rwandan society over the past 25 years, the rape victims and their children are still often marginalized, living with the stigma of widows and orphans. Today, it is the daughters of the raped women in particular who support their traumatized mothers and fight against this stigma—with incomparable courage and boundless optimism in a society marked by major trauma and authoritarian rule.
For the viewer, the Rwandan Daughters project is touching and unsettling in equal measure. It was made between 2017 and 2018 in close cooperation with ‘ora’, a children’s aid organization that has been working in Rwanda for years. A moving and intense project about memory, it celebrates the strength of Rwanda’s women. “How is it possible to develop love for a child who reminds you every day of the worst time of your life?” asks Heine. His documentation also shows that it is not always possible to forget and that mother-daughter relationships are not always unproblematic. In spite of this, the strength and willpower of these women build bridges to carry them over the horrors of the past.