MOVIE REVIEW: In “Sweet Dreams” Documentary, Rwandan Women Build Ice Cream Business

“Sweet Dreams” tracks the complicated creation of an ice cream shop in Rwanda. (Lisa Fruchtman/International Film Circuit)
Sweet Dreams, a documentary about efforts by the Brooklyn-based Blue Marble Ice Cream company to help a group of Rwandan women open their own shop, could have come off as insensitive or twee. And in the first 10 minutes, I worried that it was, indeed, about how artisanal food could save Africa.

When viewers are facing the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered in 1994, it’s easy to think that ice cream is a comparatively petty concern. But, thankfully, the sibling directors Lisa and Rob Fruchtman have made a nuanced and deftly edited film about a complex issue. It’s fascinating to see the natural resources in this “land of milk and honey” transformed into novelty and development through a soft-serve machine. And, as one man says, “If you are bringing development to the woman, you are bringing it to the whole family.” It is rare to see a movie present such weighty problems and offer nonsimplistic, practical solutions in story form.

Ms. Fruchtman’s background as an editor (Apocalypse Now and Heaven’s Gate) may have helped guide the skillful narrative structure here. The initial focus on the struggles and successes of a small business may be familiar to Western audiences. But then the individual past horrors endured by these women are revealed in subtle and dramatic ways, until we realize the weight of trauma in this nation. “Can someone just see you and start guessing your story?” one subject wonders.

article by Miriam Bale via nytimes.com

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