Ishimwe uses film to preach reconciliation

He is one among three filmmakers lined up for the forthcoming film premiere and award gala at the Kigali Serena Hotel today.
Ishimwe carries his equipment as he prepares to start work. (Moses Opobo)
Ishimwe carries his equipment as he prepares to start work. (Moses Opobo)

He is one among three filmmakers lined up for the forthcoming film premiere and award gala at the Kigali Serena Hotel today.

Three brand new short films addressing the subject, “Rethinking Reconciliation” will be unveiled.

Samuel Ishimwe Karemangingo’s short film, Crossing Lines, will be up in competition against two others; The Invincible, by Yves Montand Niyongabo, and Philbert Aime Mbabazi’s Hutsi.

Last year, the three raw film scripts were chosen from 40 submissions, followed by the production of the respective films.

The audience will have the chance to choose the best from the three films and the best filmmaker will walk away with a cash prize of Rwf 1million.

The script and film competition is a joint project of the Goethe-Institut, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), Partnership Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda, KfW Development Bank, Plan Rwanda, and International Alert. It coincides with the 20th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

At just 22, Ishimwe is the youngest in the competition. He describes himself as a budding “writer, director, and producer.”

“As a writer, director and producer I did two films; Paying debts and Crossing Lines. As a cinematographer (Director of Photography), I worked on Crossing Lines, and Mageragere/City dropout by Philbert Aime Mbabazi. I also worked as an assistant producer on a short documentary Invisible souls by a Tanzanian movie director, Emmanuel Munisi.

Crossing Lines remains his biggest project to date. The storyline revolved around the life of Kayihura, a young doctor and lonely genocide survivor who is living through a great psychological depression at the time of the 20th genocide commemoration. Kayihura can’t get over the mental images of his sister being raped and killed before his own.

Under rather strange circumstances, he saves a man from suicide, only to discover later that the man he saved was actually a genocide perpetrator freshly freed from prison. After 15 years in jail, this man finds he can no longer re-integrate in the new society.

“The film is more about reconciling with yourself and with your past, focusing on the present, and I think it is important in this period when we commemorate the tragedy which tore this country apart 20 years ago,” explains Ishimwe.

“I wish this film could stimulate a debate among Rwandans, questioning themselves on understanding the burdens of each other, besides the history which separates them.”

Ishimwe lost both parents in the genocide, becoming an orphan at just three years. To date, he has one brother to call family.

“I spent my early ages living in different families, I did my primary school at Ecole Primaire APAPER in Kicukiro Disrtict, my O-level at College Saint Andre in Nyamirambo, and Advanced level at SOS Hermann Gmeiner Technical High School in the Electrical option,” he explains.

Currently he is studying journalism at the University of Rwanda’s Great Lakes Media Center.

Following his heart

“Since my childhood I was very attached to storytelling, I used to draw short stories for my classmates in primary, and I was a movie addict, so my best wish was to make a living out of my passion.”

“When I was in secondary school, I learnt about the existence of the Rwanda Cinema Centre and I couldn’t believe it. I was a long time film lover and it was a dream coming true to know that there are people who are making movies in Rwanda. I wanted to be part of the filmmaking process,” he adds.

After completing his secondary studies in 2010, the budding filmmaker started to participate in different workshops organised by the Rwanda Cinema Centre, Almond Tree Films, and the Kampala-based Maisha Film Lab, among others.

“It is in October 2011 during a workshop entitled “A sample of work” organised by Almond Tree Films that I wrote and directed my first short film titled Paying Debts, which has been screened at the Rwanda Film Festival. I didn’t have a formal education in filmmaking but I did different trainings at different places, I did an intensive course of three months at Kwetu Film Institute, I did two workshops conducted by Maisha Film lab, one in Kampala and another one in Kigali. I participated in different workshops organised by Almond Tree Films. But I also like to train myself reading and watching tutorials on the Internet,” he says.

Challenges abound

Like all other up and coming local film makers in his shoes, Ishimwe decries lack of funding as a key impediment to his work. “This big challenge is complicated by the lack of enough technically skilled people to help me implement my artistic vision, because filmmaking is about teamwork. The local film industry is also negatively affected by the lack of capacity building. Most of the filmmakers don’t have the right skills required to make movies, and some of them don’t even want to learn. That is a big problem when money comes before passion.”

What is a good movie to him? “I think there are many factors to make a film interesting, from the story and the script to the visuals. But in my point of view, if a film can touch the audience’s emotions and make them experience something new and feel differently, then the film is interesting. For me the most rewarding aspect of filmmaking is the fact that it gives you the ability to create and touch people’s emotions using your creations, it gives you the feeling of being someone important.”

All the shortcomings aside, he is still content for his career choice: “Being a filmmaker has challenged me to be stronger intellectually, to learn about other people’s lives, and to be tolerant and less judgemental.”

Ishimwe’s enduring dream is; “To see my films alongside other Rwandese and African films, being part of the world cinema and standing confidently in front of films from around the world, and that is more of a goal than a dream.”


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