Article by Felex Badza and Thembi Zikalala
This week’s Actor Of The week goes to Eliane Umuhire for her role as Annick on the Netflix film ‘Trees of Peace’.
Trees of Peace (2021) is set in April 1994, four women from different backgrounds and beliefs are trapped and hiding during the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Their fight for survival against all odds unites the women in an unbreakable sisterhood.
In this heart-breaking film, Annick takes us on a roller coaster of emotions with her character, pregnant and trapped in a dark basement, originally created to store food, but was now inhabited by four women for 87 days. We highlight Annick’s performance as she embodies a woman that is forced to fight against all odds for survival while remaining hidden, married to her husband a childhood sweetheart, and their unborn baby boy serving as their ray of hope and reason to survive.
Her use of words as she articulates her pain and trauma of having four miscarriages in the past, makes us the audience empathize with her pain. We see the fear, vulnerability with glimpses of courage and strength through her eyes as she delivers her lines with brutal honesty.
Throughout the film we see how the actress sits in a state of utter dismay and agonizing worry when her husband does not return to the basement with food to them in days. Her physical performance reads a body that is extremely dehydrated, on the verge of dying of hunger and with the minimal movement that can be done in the basement she gives an overall powerful performance as she fights to survive in a series of unfortunate events.
The moment she sees her husband, days after he went looking for food, a clear transition from panic to relief is felt and there’s a beautiful moment of ‘The Gaze’ between the characters Francois (Tongayi Chirisa) and Annick when they rekindle.
Though vulnerable, we cannot help but applaud how brave and resilient Annick is for fighting for her family and the women trapped with her to stay alive. Eliane portrayed her character in a way most women across Africa can relate in the past or present as many still face actual genocide and wars.
Pieces of her character live within every women across Africa.
Here’s three cheers on a captivating performance!