Lionel Nishimwe, a 20-year-old filmmaker, is making a name for himself in the film industry with his innovative approach to promoting African culture. He aims to showcase the richness and diversity of African cultures to a global audience through his work, which emphasises the power of identity in shaping an individual’s perspective on the world. Nishimwe, from Burundi, began his film career at the age of 18 with his first short film in 2021. He was previously a passionate theatre actor, and it was this passion that eventually led him to explore the world of film. Nishimwe dabbled in photography and visual art, skills he had honed since primary school. His abilities in these areas were recognised by both his teachers and peers. However, it wasn’t easy for him to break into the film industry in Burundi. Despite his efforts to join various theatre groups, he found that nobody wanted him in their plays. Determined to succeed, Nishimwe decided to create his own play and realised it would be a great fit for cinema. He became obsessed with the story after completing the script and wanted to act in it himself, despite his lack of experience. However, he eventually decided to take on the role of director instead, supervising the casting and filming, which gave him the confidence to continue with this career path. Nishimwe noted that starting out in the industry without enough knowledge and tools was a challenge for him, and says that it required him to consider his target audience, which is an essential aspect of filmmaking that many aspiring filmmakers tend to overlook. He shares that to overcome these challenges, he decided to learn more about production, funding, targeting an audience, and distribution. Nishimwe’s passion for filmmaking is not only fuelled by his desire to showcase the richness and diversity of African cultures to the world but also to leave a visible mark of representation in the industry. He shares his belief that Rwandan and Burundian filmmaking has similarities in drama and culture while also having unique qualities. When you are rich in culture, your art becomes even greater,” he says. “We should own our stories and narrative and have our own cinema with its own touch.” One of the defining moments of Nishimwe’s career so far was his trip to the Mashariki Film Festival 2022 in Rwanda. There, he had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the top filmmakers in the region, an experience he describes as unique and unforgettable. He says the trip forged valuable connections for him in the industry, adding that at the closing ceremony of the festival, he also won an award—East African Talent (for film). Another significant moment for Nishimwe was meeting the great Malian film director Souleymane Cissé, in Luxor, Egypt. Cisse attended Nishimwe’s short film screening, watched it, and even re-watched it, leaving a lasting impression on the young filmmaker. Nishimwe’s dedication to filmmaking has already yielded impressive results. Since he started his career at the age of 18, he has made three short films that have garnered six nominations in international film festivals, with a total of seven awards won. Among the films is ‘Thema’, which won Best Short Film, Best Picture, and Best Male Actor (awarded to Nishimwe himself) at the FESTICAB 2021 festival. Another film, ‘A Colourful Life’, was honoured with Best Short Film, Best Sound, and Best Picture at FESTICAB 2022 and was also awarded the East African Talent (for film) in the Mashariki African Film Festival 2022. Additionally, it was nominated in the Luxor African Film Festival 2023 and the SOUSS International Short Film Festival 2023. Nishimwe remains committed to his craft and urges aspiring filmmakers to start with what they have and know their identity and align it with their understanding of their culture. Looking ahead, Nishimwe plans to continue collaborating with other filmmakers he has met at various film festivals to bring their stories to the world.