City Paper is not for tourists
It sounds like the white man’s most burdensome of missions: The owners of an organic ice cream boutique in bourgie Brooklyn go to Rwanda to help a group of women start their own shop. The Americans take pictures, receive plaudits, and advertise their beneficence to guilty liberal ice cream eaters back home. Next stop, Oprah. But the seemingly loathsome premise yields something a little more complex in Rob and Lisa Fruchtman’s Sweet Dreams. Kiki Katese, the leader of an all-women Rwandan drumming troupe, found Blue Marble Ice Cream on a trip to the United States, and asked the owners to create something similar in the city of Butare. Hers isn’t a normal percussion collective, but a blend of two ethnic groups, one of which brutally slaughtered the other in the genocide of 1994—making the shop not just an economic development project but a symbol of national reconciliation. The dramatic context, however, gets in the way of the real narrative. The film tries to tell two stories: one about memories of a horrific past, through emotional interviews with the women who lived through it; the other about an unlikely communal business enterprise that faces challenges and seems to have succeeded. The first is tragic, but we’ve heard it before. The second is more interesting, and could’ve stood on its own.