Sharing survivors' stories is vital to help one know that they are not alone in the fight of this thing called life and Netflix's Trees of Peace delivers on that sentiment. The film, centered around the Rwandan genocide, highlights four women from different walks of life as they work to hide together in a camped storage room.
The film, inspired by true events, doesn't shy away from the horrors faced by the women, instead it leans in to them, something that director and writer Alanna Brown says drew her into the story in the first place.
While working on a story centered around a trade initiative in Rwanda for an online magazine, Brown stumbled upon various tales of survivors during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. During her preparation for an interview, she began to uncover more details about the women who encountered the horrifying experiences.
"I was just so compelled by the stories of survivors, people hiding in contained spaces, and just the will to survive really floored me, I just found it so striking," Brown told Shadow and Act in a recent inteerviiew.
“And then, i that bout of research, finding that Rwanda to this day has the highest percentage of women appointed to the government, to any country in the world… that absolutely blew my mind,” she continued. “It was something that, along the journey, as I would tell people, nobody had ever heard this before. I had never heard of it.”
For her, it was a combination of the details of dope, powerful women that ultimately drove her to create Trees of Peace. The stories of survival and the will to survive, combined with the woman’s point of view of the story, really drove me to make the film.”
Intentional every step of the way, Brown wanted to ensure that the characters were portrayed by African women. “It was really important to me to have African women play the roles,” she expressed. The film’s lead is Rwandan and was able to come over on a work visa for filming.
Bringing it all full circle as an independent filmmaker was no easy feat for Brown either, but her tenacity and curiosity not only led her to the story, but led the path to bring it to one of the world’s leading streaming platforms.
"Getting an independent film made is such an uphill battle, I can't say that enough," she explained.
The career trajectory of Ava DuVernay really lit a fire inside of Brown as a storyteller, especially when she learned that the Queen Sugar creator made her first film with a budget of $50,000.
“I was like I’m gonna give myself permission to make this film and so I can only hope that in the act of pursuing my art and the act of telling this story and making this film and sticking with it all these years, that I can hopefully be an Ava DuVernay to somebody else,” she said. “That someone else can hear my story and go, ‘Oh, she did. I can do it.’ Because we’re all just people at the end of the day. If you have the drive and the persistence, you’ll get there.”
Trees of Peace is now available for streaming on Netflix.
Watch the full interview below: