Karekezi on why his film ‘Mercy of the Jungle’ won top accolades in Africa

Joel Karekezi shows off the award he won at FESPACO in April. / Courtesy

Filmmaker Joel Karekezi won’t forget the year 2019 after his film ‘Mercy of the Jungle’ scooped big prizes at different films festivals on the continent and globally.

Recently, Karekezi won the ‘Etalon d’Or de Yennenge’ at the 2019 Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, while in March,  his film also won five awards, including four at Africa Movies Academy Awards 2019 and one at the just concluded Rwanda Film Festival.

Karekezi sat down with Sunday Magazine’s Eddie Nsabimana and reflected on the milestones he achieved this year and plans for his career in the future.

How can you describe the year 2019 as a filmmaker?

2019 has been a remarkable year not only in my filmmaking career but also Rwanda’s film industry in general. It’s a year during which I enjoyed best moments in my career due to my film ‘Mercy of the Jungle’ which won me a lot of awards at Africa’s biggest film festivals and beyond.

Karekezi’s film Mercy of the Jungle won him numerous awards this year. / Courtesy

It made it to FESPACO, and in other festivals in Morocco, Chicago, Egypt and, more excitingly, it won five prizes in one week. It is now Africa’s best film of 2019 and I am really proud of the milestones I achieved this year.

Were you surprised to see your film winning prizes at both a continental and global level?

I can’t say I was surprised by the fortunes my film is claiming so far because my objective, since day one, was to produce a good film that can make me proud, a film that can be on top for a long time and a film that people can’t stop watching. 

What do you attribute the success of ‘Mercy of the Jungle’?

It is a milestone for me as a filmmaker, although it is not the first Rwandan film that has won prizes. There are a lot of Rwandan films that won big prizes in the past.

The film has been successful for a lot of reasons. Since the beginning, I wanted to do a good film and I put in a lot of efforts to make it and resources plus creativity to make it exciting.

Apart from Mercy of the Jungle, how have the rest of your films been faring so far?

Besides Mercy of the Jungle, the films that I directed have gone on to be successful. For instance, my film titled ‘The Pardon’ that I produced in 2013 has been screened in over 50 festivals across the world and won prizes.

One of the awards that film director Joel Karekezi won in 2019. / Courtesy

In general, the films that I produced in the past have received acclaim. I am also working on a new documentary which will soon be screened on Canal+. 

What message should this leave to your fellow local filmmakers?

Create stories that can, first, attract the attention of the Rwandans audience and which are ready to challenge at international film festivals.

At the moment, you can see Rwandan films getting screened at each of the festivals we attend and that shows that the future of our industry is bright as long as Rwandan filmmakers are committed to produce more and better creative stories.

What future plans do you have to push your career to the next level?

The most important thing for me is to craft stories that can impact society from across the globe. Filmmaking is my passion and my profession. That’s why I am looking to do better because I am really doing what I love most.

I want to do this job professionally and I believe I have started.

Where do you see the future of Rwanda’s film industry?

The future of Rwanda’s film industry is bright because there are local filmmakers out there doing films that are inspiring stories and their films are performing well at the international level.

It’s a journey for all of us but we also need the government to keep supporting us so that we can keep producing quality films and reach greater heights.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com