Mpyisi on making ‘Sogokuru’

Mpyisi's documentary, Sogokuru premieres at Kigali Public Library , Kacyiru this Saturday. (Courtesy)

If you are Rwandan, you probably know or have read Pastor Ezra Mpyisi’s jokes on the many social media platforms, or listened to him giving lectures on the radio.

Now, his granddaughter, Kamikazi Mpyisi, a budding filmmaker, has answered most of our prayers; making a documentary about the life of the 96-year-old clergyman.

The documentary, Sogokuru (Grandfather) premieres at Kigali Public Library, Kacyiru this Saturday. Free Entrance!

Bryan Kimenyi caught up with her to talk about the documentary.


First of all, congratulations, how do you feel?

Well, I must say I am pretty nerve wrecked but all in all I am very excited.

What was the drive behind making this documentary?

As you all know, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi has been the patriarch of the family so I have had a lot of respect for him since childhood.

However, there was something strange that would happen whenever people realised that my last name is ‘Mpyisi’.

A lot of people would all of a sudden sing his praises to me, talk about what a great man he is or how good his gospel is. It amazed me how much people really admired him.

So, after sometime, something else happened. There were all these rumours and jokes about him, some I thought were funny and pretty close to the truth but ultimately they were false conceptions that people had of him.

I think this is when the spark that lit the flame of inspiration began. I wanted badly to show the type of man that he really is from my point of view. Whether it demystified him or justified their conceptions of him, it didn’t really matter. As long as they could see the kind of person that he is through my eyes.

Of course the fact that he is a very knowledgeable man on the history and culture of Rwanda played a very important role in inspiring me to make this documentary. He is a walking encyclopaedia of our country and as a filmmaker, there is nothing better than having such a character in your film. When you add his humour and character to all of that, that’s gold. 

I really wanted to learn and share the Rwandan culture and history through him. I am very grateful for him.

Tell us about Sogokuru?

The film Sogokuru is a documentary about the life of renowned Pastor, Ezra Mpyisi. In this documentary, we get to see a lot on his personal life, who he is, not only as a pastor but also as a family man. You can be assured to see some of the great achievements that he has accomplished in the film.

Do you think all these people who’ve been sharing jokes about him will now know the man? 

I am sure they will although I still think that they will have some moments of amusement as he is indeed a humorous guy.

Does he share with us any of his humour in Sogokuru?

A film about Pastor Mpyisi without humour is no film about the man.

What’s the best part to look out for inSogokuru?

I would say the interaction with his family shows a much softer side of him which is always lovely to see.

How long have you worked on this project?

A little over a year.

While making Sogokuru, what challenges did you encounter that you think young filmmakers should know of?

Wow, I encountered quite a few challenges, one of which was the crashing of my hard drive with all the footage. Luckily, I had a backup somewhere but it was quite challenging either way.

With all those challenges, how did you pick yourself up to finally see that Sogokuru is done?

Not losing hope and reminding myself why I wanted to make this film and how much it means to me.

Positive surroundings, being with family and good friends who supported me the whole time.

Could you say this is your greatest achievement to-date?

Let us see after the screening. (laughs)

Any other movies you’ve worked on that we should know of? 

I have worked on quite a few short films but “Breath of fresh difference” won me my first film award for best short film at the Rwanda Film Festival 2017.

After Sogokuru, any upcoming projects that we should look out for?

Yes, definitely and I will soon share once we are close to the finish line.

What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on you as a filmmaker?

Stay true and passionate as possible, that is the fuel that keeps me going and will keep me going probably till my last breath.


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