Alanna Brown is an American film maker and director working to have her feature film ‘Trees of Peace’, shot. The film is about four women who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The project was conceived six years ago when Brown was interviewing a woman who founded an initiative to help rebuild women survivors in Rwanda and the stories inspired her.
She spoke to Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa about the film and its process.
What is the origin of the name of the film‘Trees of Peace’?
It came from research which found out that radio stations aired propaganda after the plane carrying President Habyarimana crashed announcing, “Cut the tall trees” and that was the signal to start the killing.
So I wanted to take a part of it and say that these women and children are “the trees of peace.” They are the trees of the future and they will go on to bear the fruits and be the future.
Why particularly the women of Rwanda?
In my research I found that Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in cabinet and you know in the United States where I come from, there is still no pay equity.
There are a lot of big companies but have one or two female CEOs.
The women of Rwanda really moved me because of their strength coming out of the tragedy like that and becoming leaders on national and international level.
Their forgiveness also moved me because in the US we have a long history of slavery and as an African American woman I am struck by my own history, it’s like slavery never happened. People never want to talk about that.
The fact that Rwandans talk about it, the memorial sites and the survivors forgiving perpetrators, I think is powerful. The film will show the strength of women and also to talk about the power of forgiveness, and unity across all ethnic lines. The power of unity across all boundaries is the message of the film.
My mission as a film maker for the past six years is to get this movie made and we are making progress. I had a kick-starter campaign a couple of years ago and we have since raised $100,000. Our budget is between $400,000 and $800,000 and my producing team back in the US has partnered with a celebrity children charity organization and this year with Trees of peace, they are adopting gorillas through the Diane Fossey fund.
Tell us more about your trip to Rwanda?
I came because I had never been here. My script and the concept trailer was made and I directed it based on the research I did online, movies, and documentaries.
As someone who is going to direct this movie and direct actors I needed to come to Rwanda and experience it first hand and touch the tragedy that happened here.
I have been to four memorial sites and talked to some survivors and perpetrators. It was a very emotional experience for me.
What is your experience in film industry?
I am a self-taught film maker but I was an actress first. I have always been a writer and after I graduated with Communications degree, I decided to do something creative and so I left my job. I wrote my first script and I fell in love with the processes of film making.
I have continued to write several scripts and I have written more scripts than I have made movies because movies take a really long time.
This has been my main movie project for the past six years and will be my directorial feature debut as it has some big Hollywood producers interested. I can’t say who they are yet but it’s looking good.
Who will the actors be?
Producers usually want a big star to act because it will draw a big audience. They want to make back the money they invested. Our target is getting the big stars to be part of the movie and so we are working on that right now.
We are trying to get a celebrity to be a producer and after that the casting will start.
We are also interested in Rwandan actresses; and we are hoping to find the next big African actress in Rwanda.
Why is it important to you that it gets a big audience?
I know it happened here but it is a global story. So many other countries are hurting. Horrible tragedies continue to happen.
If this film can be seen in a big way. It’s not only a benefit of the future of Rwanda; it’s also the benefit for the future of other countries.
Other people, other countries can learn a lesson of what you have done here. I want it to be a globally healing story.
Where will the film be shot and when will it be released?
It will be shot probably in Los Angeles and if we do exterior shots we will come to Rwanda. I took some footage here. We are waiting for money but we hope to shoot it this year and are hoping to show it next year.