The ‘Hillywood’ tour bus took us on the winding road to Musanze through the hills north of Kigali, swinging wildly from left to right to avoid gaping pot-holes waiting to swallow our tyres. From Musanze we continued on to Rubavu on the coast of Lake Kivu.
Under the gaze of one of the regions giant volcanoes, emitting a plume of smoke pink in the dusk light, the team began setting up for the evening’s entertainment: the sound system, the projector and the towering inflatable screen.
A crowd began to assemble in the town’s bus park as word spread.
As darkness fell on Rubavu, the ‘Hillywood’ team began playing their selection of Rwandan films. Short films made by students of the Rwanda Film Institute (RFI) were a big success: the romance of ‘JFJ’; the comedy of ‘The K-Guy’; and the emotion of ‘Ikara’ (Charcoal).
‘Fora’, a wonderful short from Rwandan writer and director, Ayuub Kasasa Mago, was greeted with warm applause.
The Public Services International (PSI) films ‘Intamenya Irira kumuziro’ and ‘Irinde irari ry’akanya gato,’ targeted a younger audience, engaging them with humour, and at the same time seeking to educate them as well.
The films tackled important issues such as HIV/AIDs and promoted the message of the ‘Sinigurisha’ campaign.
However, the greatest applause was reserved for the master himself, Charlie Chaplin. His 1921 film ‘The Kid’, with its mix of slap-stick humour and moving emotional scenes had the audience enthralled.
It is a testament to the genius of the man that a film without dialogue, without colour or special effects can still be entertaining to an audience of all ages in the modern era.
As the final film came to a close, the stars were twinkling brightly in a clear sky; quite literally, cinema under the stars. The last credits rolled and the crowd began to disperse.
The most wonderful thing about Hillywood is that it asks for no please’s and thank you’s. The devoted team simply rolls into town, plays their films and leaves.
The crowd does not wait around after the final film ends – the people just walk off.
But there is a sort of tacit acknowledgment, an unspoken gratitude in the laughter and enjoyment of the audience, which is all the ‘thank you’ the Hillywood team needs.
Between 12th and 17th June, the Rwanda Film Festival and its ‘Hillywood’ tour travelled throughout the country, to Nyagatare, Rwamagana, Gicumbi, Rubavu, Musanze, Karongi and Huye, bringing a cinema experience to the hills of Rwanda.
Tonight, the festival returns to Kigali with a fantastic Opening Night at the Serena Hotel from 6pm. Tickets are available on the door to all those who want to be a part of the festivities.
The Festival hits Kigali: Up-coming events
Tonight, Thursday 18th June - Opening Night Ceremony, Serena Hotel from 6pm
Main screening venues from 19th-27th June: Shokola Cafe, Chez Robert, Torero Cafe, Cinestar (Nyamirambo), Goethe Institut (Ishyo, Kacyiru).
For more information, see desks outside Bourbon Coffee outlets in UTC and MTN Center, or programmes at the venues.