Every person has a story: An interview with veteran actor Kennedy Mazimpaka

Seasoned filmmaker Kennedy Mazimpaka relaxing at his home in Kigali. /Courtesy.

“You cannot talk about the burgeoning Rwandan film industry without mentioning Kennedy Mazimpaka.

The 60-year-old actor has been featured in almost all international films that have been produced in Rwanda.


I caught up with him and here are some excerpts.”


Your acting career spans over two decades, what would you consider as your major break into acting?


My major break was probably in the year 2001 when I landed a role in the genocide themed film 100 Days. I played the character of a rogue Catholic priest.

That experience became my launching pad to feature in several blockbuster films like, “Shooting Dogs”, “Sometimes in April”, “Africa United” and recently “Kinyarwanda.”

What have you been up to lately?

I have been doing a lot in both film and theatre. During the last two years for example, I have been coordinating a team of young filmmakers in a training workshop conducted by Rwanda Media Project and Kwetu Film Institute.

The main objective was to empower young talents to produce a web series entitled “Karani Ngufu”.

Mazimpaka‭ (‬in a tracksuit‭) ‬at Kwetu Film Institute conducting acting rehearsals with actors of‭ ‬“Karani Ngufu”‭ ‬series‭. ‬Courtesy‭.‬

A story that follows the struggles of three female domestic workers in a small neighbourhood.

Apart from acting, have you considered trying your hands in other filmmaking departments?

I have actually directed several episodes in “Seburikoko”, a popular local TV series produced by Wilson Misago. It has been broadcasting on the national television and tells humorous day-to-day stories in a village setting.

Why do you think “Seburikoko” has been very successful?

I think it’s because the story highlights critical issues in the society, like family conflicts, gender and education among other things in a comical way.

I also think “Seburikoko” has a great cast line-up with the lead character, Gratien Niyitegeka stealing the show with his unique gift of the gab.

“Seburikoko” was the first Rwandan series to receive official selection to screen at the prestigious Zanzibar International Film Festival in Tanzania. That was a great feat.

Who do you think drives the story in a film?

Many people would argue that the film director tells the story. However, I believe a film story is not only told by the director. Instead, we have two other main talents that are involved; the writer and the editor.

These three forms the creative team that shapes a story. Each one plays a critical role.

Can you please explain what filmmakers call the work flow in a story?

In normal circumstances, the story idea originates from the script writer but in some cases the idea can originate from a third party who then share it with the writer to translate it into a script.

The script is handed over to the director who put it into the image and the editor knit those images together for the story to come to life.

Remember, the editor can make the story sweet or ugly. It’s the smooth collaboration between these three talents that brings forth a captivating piece of art that is worth the audience time and money.

What would you say is the main characteristic of a great film director?

A great director need to be very creative. This makes it possible to translate the story on a paper into a compelling motion picture.

He should also be a great problems solver. As you might know, a lot of mishaps happens on the set and the director has to give directions.

He has great responsibilities because when a film production fails to meet certain expectations, the director shoulders all the blame.

Apart from acting and now directing films, what are your other talents?

You won’t believe it but while growing up in Uganda where I was born, I started exploring deejay talent from a very tender age. I worked in Kampala’s night clubs like Club Clouds in the early 80’s.

Why do you think one would make a great director if he/she is conversant with technical aspects of filmmaking?

I think it’s a huge plus for a director to have basic ideas in other filmmaking departments like camera, lights and art departments.

A director should for example know which costume fits in a film and which doesn’t. The director should mind what a character is going to be holding on his hand.

If the story is about a woman in the village then having her hold an iPad would raise eyebrows among the audience.

Let’s talk briefly about your siblings, is there someone who’s in the creative sector?

Two of my sons are also in the creative sector. My elder son Arnold Kabera, whose stage name is Sintex, is a dance hall artiste.

The other son Arthur Nkusi is in acting, comedy and radio.

 In fact, I usually share a stage with him while performing at Mashirika.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown affect your life?

The pandemic has taught me some important life lessons, like giving priorities to things that are absolutely necessary.

This including spending only on what I need and not what I want.

However, like many other people I was affected economically since as a filmmaker working on international projects, the absence of flights for example meant lack of income.

What do you think is the future of Rwanda’s film industry?

The future of the Rwanda’s film industry is very bright. We have a dynamic youth full of talent and passion to tell stories.

On the other hand, the government has taken an active role in supporting the industry through the establishment of Rwanda Film Office.

As one of the major players in the field, I will work around the clock to ensure the industry becomes productive and also contributes to the country’s gross domestic product.


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