Piracy is ruining Rwanda’s movie industry – Bahati

Jean-Baptiste Habiyambere, aka Bahati, was a member of the defunct boy band - Just Family. The 28-year-old musician-cum-movie producer talked to Society Magazine’s Dean Karemera about a cross section of issues in his newly found passion, the movie industry.

Jean-Baptiste Habiyambere, aka Bahati, was a member of the defunct boy band - Just Family. The 28-year-old musician-cum-movie producer talked to Society Magazine’s Dean Karemera about a cross section of issues in his newly found passion, the movie industry.

How did you join the movie industry?

My love for movies goes back to when I was still young. I used to envision myself directing movies or even acting. When I joined Just Family as a group member, I started realising my dream because I was always involved in directing our music videos. 

However, directing a music video and a movie is totally different and can’t even be compared but during that time I started considering pursuing my dream. 

Just Family is no more; what happened?

This is something we usually don’t like putting in the media, but we had some differences and I decided to leave. 

What was your experience when producing your first movie?

The first movie I produced and directed is called- Kaliza. It has three episodes. The movie opened up my eyes. It was the first time to go on a production set but the experience was great.

I had to learn how to work with my crew, mentor them and bring out the best in them. As a producer you have a big role to thoroughly explain to the actors how to step in their characters’ shoes. For example, you can’t shoot an 80’s movie and dress the characters in the latest trends. This also includes the makeup. 

My close friend Vianney Kayumba, a talented actor and writer, guided me along the way. After my first movie, I went to Nairobi for a three months course in movie production. 

Where does an idea for a movie begin for you and what makes a good movie?

It starts from a story; a social lifestyle or a new trend in the world. It could be about something dangerous that is springing up in our society. Usually, I consider something that has a cultural aspect in it. My inspiration comes from Rwanda and that is why I consider my culture. 

For a movie to be good, it must have three important things: a good script, good image quality and good actors. The script should be made in a way that a person watching will look forward to the next part. Of course the quality matters a lot because no one wants to watch a movie with blurry images and if you have good actors, then your movie will be perfect.  

Do you have themes behind your movies or questions you are trying to answer?

Yes, I do. An example is a movie I launched last Sunday titled Ruzagayura. It is about two girls who lost both parents during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and they have to fend for themselves. 

In order for them to survive they have to engage in evil doings such as prostitution and murder among others. I thought that since we are commemorating 20 years after the Genocide, it would be in order to increase awareness about the plight that some orphans in our society are still going through. The theme for this movie is about the Genocide survivors. 

What has been the biggest project you have worked on?

My recent movie is the biggest project I have worked on so far. It was difficult from the onset but I was dealing with a contentious issue that is common in our society. I had to carefully choose my actors and to make sure that the script was well written.

How would you rate the movie industry in Rwanda and the actors/actresses? 

I think it is safe to say that we have good actors and actresses as it is in Rwanda now. They love what they do; they are hardworking and willing to learn. However, I think they lack professional training and exposure. They need to undergo training to improve on their performance. I believe if they got scholarships or financial help, they would be better than they are at the moment. 

What are some of the challenges derailing the movie industry? 

We are facing many problems at the moment, but there are three major challenges. 

The first is pirating movies. For instance we release 500 copies on the market but within one week, there are over 5000 copies. Most of these are pirated movies and we do not get a single coin from them. We end up making loses and failing to get capital for our next projects. We need a law against piracy in place. 

The other issue is financial support. Our industry needs support from corporate companies and the government. It is an industry that can grow to significantly contribute to national development. 

Local support is also wanting; people criticise how we make movies but they are not willing to share ideas with us on how to make our movies better. 

When Nigerian movies had just come on the market, people criticised them but now the industry is contributing to the country’s economy. The film industry has also created jobs and wealth for Nigerians. However, we don’t want to imitate the way Nigerians act their movies—we want to stick to our identity as Rwandans.


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