Eric Kabera is a film producer and founder of Kwetu Film Institute. He is passionate about promoting Rwanda’s cinema industry, a passion that would result into the birth of the annual Rwanda Film festival, and the annual Genocide film screenings – during the period the country commemorates the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He spoke to The New Times’ Sharon Kantengwa about the impact the movies have had in telling the Rwandan story and the challenges faced.
The Genocide against the Tutsi definitely left behind many issues to explore by film makers. Can you say the Rwandan story has been sufficiently told through film?
The Genocide against the Tutsi has been a stepping stone for the new Rwandan narrative about our recent past. Today, we speak of the Rwandan film industry based on the actual facts that many films have been made on the subject mentioned above.
Myself, I got involved into this trade based on this experience. I worked on many documentaries that came out of Rwanda that has been made by many television companies and film companies from around the world. We are yet to get our stories told, reason why we started the school: Kwetu Film Institute.
We are very keen on encouraging young men and women to embrace the medium of film and storytelling. It is the beginning as we now have a number of young men and women who are engaged. Film has a powerful message to change the mindset and perspective of a people perception.
What has been the role of the film industry towards fostering unity and reconciliation in Rwanda?
The role of the film industry has had a huge impact locally and internationally.
The story has been consumed around the world.
More than 50 films have been produced around the Genocide committed against the Tutsi, from short films, to documentaries and feature films.
However, we have not yet even scratched the surface. We have not yet told the story of the liberators, the ones who stopped the Genocide. Many of our stories are yet to be told, each family has a story, and bodies of our loved ones are still being found around the country, even 24 years later.
Digital technology has evolved and this gives us the prerogative to record the voices and capture the photos of the parted. However, basic training is still essential and professional training and preparation is highly needed to tackle this sensitive subject.
This process goes both ways, we need personal investment, institutional and organisational investment as well as state contribution to make this work efficiently to have the memory preserved for future generations.
In your own opinion, what have been some of the key milestones as far as promoting unity & reconciliation through film is concerned?
Film and media in general are very good tools of education and sensitisation for the people to unite and look at things in a positive light. The reverse is also very true.
We are also humbled to have contributed to the education process on the Genocide against the Tutsi, positively inside Rwanda and around the world.
We have already been labeled the champion in this field, it has indeed become a vocation and we are very happy to have been at the forefront of this undertaking. A lot is yet to be done though.
During this commemoration period, we found it encouraging to see the community, the Government and friends of Rwanda support the audience, especially the youth who came in big numbers to watch these films that we made about 20 years on the subject of memory and Genocide against the Tutsi.
Kigali cultural Village, which is under Rwanda Convention Bureau, did a fantastic job in getting the youth to engage with our past, present and future during the screenings.
What are some of the challenges that film industry is facing in trying to tell the Rwandan story?
The challenges that the film industry face are still immense. There is still limited resources in infrastructure, financing and training. We still train and provide education to our youth but it would be huge incentives for the Government and private sector to engage with this important medium.
We don’t have to wait for someone from New York, Berlin or London to come and support local stories that are more relevant to your community, family and also about your history and setting.
What is being done to address these problems?
There have been some discussions with the Ministry of Sports and Culture to have them fully engage with the organisers of the various Rwanda film festivals.
We hope by this year, when we celebrate our 14th edition of the Rwanda film festival, from August 18-25 in Kigali, to have secured solid partnerships with many of our existing partners, including MINISPOC (Ministry of Culture and Sports).
We hope to bring some more insights if needed. The films that were screened are all online.