- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Peck’s grim ‘April’

Haitian film director Raoul Peck had a change of heart about filming the Rwandan genocide after visiting that war-torn region.

“I was inside a church looking through an old bloodstained Bible that was on the floor among piles of bones, clothes and all sorts of debris,” Mr. Peck told Scripps Howard News Service. “I thought how senseless. But I was facing something so huge that I couldn’t turn my back on this project and just go about my life. After seeing the remnants of the genocide, I knew I had to make this film.”

Mr. Peck’s film, “Sometimes in April,” debuts Saturday at 8 p.m. on HBO.

The director shrugs off worries that some people might compare “Sometimes in April” to last year’s Oscar-nominated movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which stars Don Cheadle.

“Anytime that we can get a movie or movies out that have such a powerful message as this story does, I can’t imagine how any of it can be overshadowed or diminished in any way,” Mr. Peck said. “I don’t think it’s a question of which one came first or anything like that. It’s too important of an issue to get caught up in that sort of thing.”

Mr. Peck has produced and directed several movies, notably “The Man on the Shore” (1993), which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival, and “Haiti — Silence of the Dogs” (1994). His most mainstream film, “Lumumba” (2000), was shown on HBO in 2002.

He said that rather than just tell what happened between the Hutu and Tutsi people in “Sometimes in April,” he wanted to show why the atrocities occurred, how the world responded and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

The film stars Oscar nominee Debra Winger as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Prudence Bushnell and Idris Elba (Russell “Stringer” Bell of HBO’s “The Wire”) as the lead character, Augustin. Mr. Elba plays a Hutu who tries to keep his Tutsi wife and family from being killed.

To maintain authenticity and credibility, Mr. Peck insisted that most of the cast be Rwandans. Many of the actors actually survived the genocide.

“It’s their story,” he said. “No one is better suited to tell the story than those who experienced the tragedy.”

‘Wing’ flies again

The ballots have been counted, and the news is good for NBC’s “The West Wing.”

The award-winning political drama will come back for a seventh season, Reuters News Agency reports.

Now that NBC has exercised its option to pick up another 22 episodes, the Emmy-winning White House drama is poised to undergo a regime change after centering on Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet since its 1999 debut. Much of this year’s story line has concerned the campaigning between two powerful lawmakers — played by Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits — one of whom presumably will win the election by season’s end.

Sources say the show’s producers have the contractual option to bring back Mr. Smits and Mr. Alda next season. The show also has core cast members (and Bartlet administration staffers) Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff and John Spencer under contract for the upcoming season.

“Wing’s” viewership has rebounded slightly, after dipping last season, with the addition of TV veterans Mr. Smits and Mr. Alda. This season, its 9 p.m. Wednesday slot is averaging 11.4 million viewers per episode.

Less certain, however, is the fate of another long-running NBC drama.

“Third Watch” is considered a long shot for renewal, sources told Reuters. Its outcome will be determined by how many new shows NBC picks up for its fall lineup.

The drama about the firemen and paramedics in New York’s fictional 55th Precinct airs Friday evenings at 9 and has won its time slot for most of this season, with an average of 9.4 million viewers.

The widow’s tale

A week ago, Ashley Smith was just a kindhearted Atlanta widow unknown beyond her circle of family and friends.

Today, following her heroic efforts to bring Brian Nichols’ killing spree to a peaceful end, she’s the subject of a CNN special.

“People in the News,” hosted by Paula Zahn at 10 tonight, focuses on Mrs. Smith’s life story. The single mother’s childhood, difficult young adulthood and strong faith all will be examined by the cable news channel.

Hart digs ‘Dirt’

A former TV witch is getting her hands dirty on a new Boston-based sitcom.

Melissa Joan Hart, the former star of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” will co-star in the new Fox comedy pilot “Dirtbags.”

The show revolves around a group of thirtysomething friends in a blue-collar suburb of Boston.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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