Earlier this month,30-year-old journalist and documentarist Gentil Ntirenganya started a project dubbed ‘Tell Your Story’ with the objective to document testimonies of Genocide survivors on their tragic journey to survival from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over a million of lives in a period of 100 days.
Ntirenganya, also the CEO of Gazelle Media Production Ltd, a digital service company, is ready to reach out to Genocide survivors and institutions across the country, compile their testimonies, archive them and share them with the post-Genocide generation and the rest of the global community so they can get to know the truth behind what exactly happened in Rwanda in 1994.
He explained his project to Sunday Magazine’s Eddie Nsabimana. Below are the excerpts;
Gentil Gedeon Ntirenganya. Courtesy photos.
Why are you interested in archiving genocide survivors’ testimonies?
Genocide survivors’ testimonies make a big part of the history of Genocide. But they will grow old and die. Then, imagine if they die without sharing true stories they carry in their mind on the truth behind what happened in Rwanda.
The country would be losing traces of its history and I don’t think we can afford to lose such stories, yet there is a way to keep them.
That caught my interest to record their testimonies and keep the history of our country and these stories can play a key role in tackling Genocide denial.
So what triggered your interest in doing this?
When I attended a commemoration event in Huye in 2016, a woman who was supposed to provide a testimony did not appear for reasons that were not disclosed.
Although another Genocide survivor testified in the end, I started to wonder what would happen if disease, death or any other reason could stop the woman from testifying before the public again and I felt something was missing, which was documenting the testimony.
I tried it last year when I met Dutch-based Genocide survivor Darius Rurangirwa. It was his first time sharing his story about the journey to his survival from the 1970s when Genocide preparations were underway until it was executed in 1994. I filmed him, with his permission, and the video of his testimony gathered over 60 000 views on YouTube in one year.
He was not ready to testify before the public or share his testimony to the media, but many people were interested to watch it.
Based on these experiences, I have learned that if we don’t pay attention to our history, we could find ourselves in a situation of crisis of testimonies about the Genocide against the Tutsi. Jews had the same crisis on the Holocaust because many survivors had already died. For us, we can avoid that.
Are survivors open in sharing their stories?
So far, a number of them have narrated their testimonies. These testimonies are very important for future generations to capture what happened to their parents because time will come when Genocide survivors’ grand children or great grandchildren will need to know the truth of the past.
How many documentaries have you produced so far?
Since the commemoration week began, I have already produced documentaries for seven Genocide survivors and I have more that I am working on.
I am also working on a special testimony for a survivor which I want to screen during the official launch of my project before the 100 days of commemoration end.
What is your experience like in doing documentaries?
It’s my passion. Wherever I have worked, I have worked on documented talk shows.
Some of my works won me a number of awards, including an audio documentary on ‘Sexual Corruption in Music’ that scooped a prize at the 2017 Media Development Awards.
You said you want the testimonies to reach a bigger audience across the globe. Which languages will they be shot in?
The documentaries will be produced in Kinyarwanda with subtitles in either English or French.