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TV review - Black Earth Rising

21 June 2019
Author   Jackie Wilson Asheeke

Those who do not have Netflix will not be aware of this powerful television series.  But, Black Earth Rising is a remarkable mini-series set in today’s world but with direct reference to the Rwandan Genocide of the mid-1990s.  It is a deep story of one young woman’s torment over her roots, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its prosecutions, the role of France and other countries in the Rwandan genocide and the power of transnational companies and their role in exploiting and profiting from tribulations in Africa.  

The show is full of side plots about dangerous political players and those seeking to keep their access to power and money.  Watch this series - it is disturbing, stunning, challenging, shocking, entertaining and totally ‘in your face.’
At first, when I began watching it, I couldn’t get ‘into’ the main character, Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel).  She annoyed me by being so self-centred, angry and argumentative.  I like hero characters that I can cheer for, but I didn’t like Kate.   However, my kids pointed out to me that it was generational blindness (they were nicely calling me ‘old’) that prevented me from accepting this character’s understandable ‘mental instability,’ woke personality, internal outrage in the midst of her competence, passion, deep commitment to life and high levels of intelligence.  
I am beginning to ‘get it’ about Kate’s constant shouting and anger and accept that she is not ‘whole’ and that, unapologetically, is who she always will be.  She is able to do remarkably clever things and yet, makes strange choices while still coming out on top.  
This rather bloody and vomit-filled Netflix series is full of mature, smarter and stronger women in key roles and a historically accurate plot.  It asks the audience to consider what justice is. It demands that the audience re-live blood, screaming, terror, genocide, a mass grave and witness unexpected murder and mayhem, some portrayed in animated illustrations.  Kate somehow unravels (in true whodunnit style) lies and misdirection.  This is a thinking person’s TV series.
In the story, Kate was a baby rescued from the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  Now all grown up after having been adopted and raised in England by a white British international lawyer and prosecutor of human rights cases, Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter), this interesting-looking petite, yet physically fit black woman works as a legal investigator for Michael Ennis (John Goodman).  
The plot comes to life in a shocking way when Eve takes on an ICC case prosecuting an African military leader who, back during the genocide fought to stop the killing, but who now faces human rights charges for his subsequent murderous and greedy antics in the DRC.
Shocking stuff happens before that case is completed, and this leads Kate to the defence team of a former Rwandan General (who helped end the genocide and saved many lives) and family friend, Alice Munezero (Noma Dumezweni) who has been wrongly accused of killing a French priest (back in 1994).  She is dramatically cleared of these made-up charges.  
More shocking stuff happens and the sharp and strong female power-addicted president of Rwanda directly enters the story and her chief advisor (and father of her grown child) has his own secret part of the overall murderous and bloody plot.  This TV series is probably not liked very much by the French, particularly those who remember that France did indeed lend support to the Hutus in their push to keep political power in Rwanda.  One white politically powerful, super rich French character actually hints that the Tutsis caused their own genocide!
The plot twists and turns quite well.  I binge watched the episodes and it kept me riveted to the TV screen for hours.  Younger viewers may need more context and support to understand the genocide and better grasp the more graphically violent aspects of the plotline.
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