KINYARWANDA wraps production in Rwanda: Film set to premiere in Rwanda in April 2010
Shot over the course of 16 days, the film centers on the as yet untold story of how Muslims and Christians protected each other during the Rwandan Genocide. Focusing on acts of humanity in the face of terror, the film sheds light on both the rehabilitating “Re-Edukation Camps” of former militia and, for the first time, the story of the RPF soldiers who liberated the country.
As six separate stories, told AMORES PERROS-style, the film adopts a non-linear style of filmmaking. The story of a Mufti, a priest, an imam, a child, a young girl and a killer, it tells the tale of innocent people, innocence lost and, in incredible acts of redemption, regaining that innocence.
For both Brown and Dean, accepting the invitation to be part of envisioning Executive Producer Ishmael Ntihibose’s story was a no-brainer. Brown, who, for several years, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, welcomed the opportunity to revisit the terrain as the landscape for his first feature film.
“I’ve been here before, and I’ve made films before,” says Brown, “but I’ve learned more here than I could teach. But it’s hard to work in Africa and not learn more than you’d known before.”
In Dean’s case, the opportunity to follow-up the multi-award winning PRINCE OF BROADWAY on a different continent, with a higher budget and an much larger cast and crew presented it’s own series of challenges and rewards.
“With PRINCE,” he notes, “the challenge was making a film with a micro-budget. KINYARWANDA is a much different animal. Here the challenge was doing the same, but there were language and cultural rights of passage we needed to overcome as filmmakers. Because, now, it’s such a docile part of the world, much of the energy needed to be brought with the story – and each triumph often happened fractionally.”
Part filmmaking excursion and part educational endowment, the filmmakers brought along several visiting international crew members (including the Sundance bound DP Danny Vecchione) to facilitate an emerging filmmaking community.
“Part of this process was educational – but not missionary,” says Dean of the first-ever Rwandese executive produced film. “We learned as much from our crew as they did from us. It was our goal to bring on local crew members and actors who have, in the past, participated in supporting roles or as assistants to assistants on larger U.S., Canadian, European or BBC productions. In this case, many Rwandese were given lead positions within the framework of the film, thus creating an infrastructure of filmmakers that would be able and be inspired to pick up a camera and make a film by any means necessary.”
In addition, two U.S. actors were brought along for the ride: Cassandra Freeman (INSIDE MAN; I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE) and Kena Anae, who previously worked with Brown on his short films and stage-work. Freeman, who portrays a RPF lieutenant akin to the legendary Rwandese political icon Rose Kabuye, marveled at the opportunity to research the role with Kabuye herself.
“It was such a humbling experience,” says Freeman. “Working with the local crew and seeing how immediate the relevance was, I think I felt more responsibility for an accurate and honest performance than anything I’ve ever worked on before.”
The internationally acclaimed cast is rounded out by award-winning poet Edouard Bamporiki (MUNYURANGABO; LONG COAT), Cleophus Kabasiita (SOMETIMES IN APRIL), Kennedy Mazimbaka (SHOOTING DOGS; SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL), Assumpta Micho (SOMETIMES IN APRIL), and introduces Hassan Kabera and Hadidja Zaninka.
The film will premiere in Rwanda in April 2010 (as part of a European Commission grant) with a festival run soon to follow.