Intore: A story about Rwanda's tragic past and revival

As the country healed from the wounds of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, many Rwandan filmmakers immersed themselves in making films on the subject.
A scene from the movie. (Courtesy)
A scene from the movie. (Courtesy)

As the country healed from the wounds of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, many Rwandan filmmakers immersed themselves in making films on the subject. 

Eric Kabera is one such man. The founder of the Kwetu Film Institute and Chairman of the Rwanda Film Festival (RFF), Kabera boasts a colorful filmography that includes such titles as; Africa United – about three youngsters from Rwanda who embark on an epic journey to the World Cup; Keepers of Memory – a documentary commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda; Through my Eyes – a documentary film about Rwandan youth reflecting on their past, present and future perspectives; and 100 Days: a feature film recounting the days ensuing the start of Rwanda’s genocide.


But perhaps, one film of Kabera’s that can be considered to be a true emblematic painting of Rwanda, its innumerable art forms of dance and music, it’s incredible landscapes, and its amazing voices and faces is Intore.


The 64 minute documentary film offers a powerful and rare look at how Rwanda survived its tragic past by regaining its identity through music, dance, and the resilience of a new generation. 


This is a story of triumph, survival, hope, and a lesson in how to forgive and live, and to aspire again. 

The film is dotted with familiar faces in contemporary Rwandan society, each offering a glimpse into their varied genocide experiences and survival stories; from veteran folk singer Mariya Yohana whose motherly grief gives birth to hope; to a maestro who brings together the National Ballet with an incredible touch of genius.

But there are even more familiar scenes and faces in the movie to portray the Rwanda of today:

Scenes like President Paul Kagame’s address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at the UCLA Center for World Health in Los Angeles, California on February 12, 2014. 

“Twenty years ago we sunk to the bottom. Most observers considered Rwanda a failed state, and predicted it would remain so for a long time. But for the people of Rwanda that was not an option, and there was only one trajectory ahead; We had to move upwards, and do it together,” the president said in his address. 

That is where the President’s address ends in the movie, otherwise he had continued:

“The history of Rwanda in the last two decades has been about averting the total collapse of the state, rebuilding our social fabric, creating functioning institutions, and building a sustainable economy and inclusive growth. It has been about restoring life, hope, and dignity of our people.”

This is the story that Kabera preoccupies himself with telling in Intore.

“The president’s presence was very important because of the message that coincides with the message of the film, that is why we had to go all the way in Los Angeles, California where he made the speech,” Kabera noted. 

“Once you make a movie you have to pick the right message. It’s not just a matter of putting the President’s voice in it, but rather for this message to accompany the theme of the film.” 

Intore basically documents the recovery of a nation that has been reconstructed through a social, political, cultural and economic dynamic from the perspective of its pain and turbulent tragic past. 

The need to communicate to the world the energy that abounds from this rebirth, renaissance and resilience is what inspired Kabera into making the movie in 2014. 

Midway through the film, former US president Bill Clinton is seen in a speech describing the 1994 genocide as “one of humanities’ great failures at the end of the 20th century”, and “one of my personal failures”. “For the world did not intervene to try and stop the Rwandan genocide”. 

Away from these high profile appearances, there is a buffet of familiar local faces in the movie; singers like Knowless Butera, Riderman, Intore Masamba, Ben Ngabo Kipeti, Mighty Popo, Mani Martin, and the poet and historian Kalisa Rugano.

There are moving testimonies and rehearsal sessions for members of the Rwanda National Ballet.

There are also glimpses into the contemporary Kigali arts and entertainment circuit, with scenes from the KigaliUp Music Festival, a national performance by the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company, and the Walk to Remember. 

The messages in the film are delivered in a perfect mix of Kinyarwanda, English, and French.

Kabera contends that choosing content for the film was a real challenge:

“The most complex issue was how do you talk about Rwanda, 20 years later? What do you talk about –is it the roads, the politics, infrastructure, health, ubudehe, the girinka …

“People do not even understand why I called it Intore. I did the first showing before the movie was fully completed and people were like yeah … we like it but we don’t really understand the title. Because you see Intore is not just a dancer. Intore is a man of integrity, a man who puts himself up to the challenge, a man who performs acts of bravery, so it’s an entire philosophy.” 

The movie is therefore also about the powerful music and movements that come from the young men and women of the Rwanda National Ballet, who inherited the sacrifices and the pain of their nation. 

“They’ve overcome loss, exile, and have lived with the scars left by the genocide. Now they are spreading the message of forgiveness. It is through their music and dance that they tell their stories and own their destinies. This is what has moved me to present a film with a message of hope and triumph from my people.” 

He went on: “For me it was about the choices people make –to sing in adversity, to be positive in poverty, to be brave in hardship, to reflect deeply in a place where you would otherwise not expect it. Hence the use of landscapes, people’s faces and voices.”

Intore is one of the African films that will be showing next month at the New York African Film Festival.

Famous lines from Intore

“Twenty years ago we sunk to the bottom. Most observers considered Rwanda a failed state, and predicted it would remain so for a long time. But for the people of Rwanda that was not an option, and there was only one trajectory ahead; We had to move upwards, and do it together.” – President Paul Kagame.

“…because of one of humanities great failures, at the end of the twentieth century. And one of my personal failures. For the world did not intervene to try stop the Rwandan Genocide.” – Former US President Bill Clinton.

“I’m a mixed Rwandan guy, my father was Tutsi, my mother was Hutu. It’s in my DNA; I’m genetically conditioned not to be or to take sides. I’m genetically conditioned not to be biased, not on a purely ethnic level anyways. Because I can’t deny my father any more than I can deny my mum.” – Corneille Nyungura.

“We used to call Rwanda the Switzerland of Africa. We thought we’re so holy, we thought we’re so peaceful and we would pride ourselves in being one of the most peaceful people and country in all of Africa. And then that happens.” – Corneille Nyungura.

“Those who did the genocide, instead of fighting like soldiers and fight other soldiers, they started killing civilians with machetes because of their ethnic group.” – Kalisa Rugano.

“In Kinyarwanda, intore means someone with great moral integrity. Someone who can die for his country. Someone who can die for others. That is being intore.” – Eric Kabera.

“As for the dancing it brings you back a thousand years, it’s really something that’s so deeply rooted, when you see it, you can’t go wrong. If you have a soul, and you see it, you’ll be touched.” – Intore Masamba.

“From one stop to another, I ended up in Germany where, with the help of many kind souls who have helped me along the way I managed to make it to Germany where, I reached a family of friends of my family. Who took me in; I stayed with them for a few years and then came to Montreal. I had an uncle who lived here, he took me in, the language Kinyarwanda, I stopped speaking it. I stopped wanting to hear or read about news on Rwanda. I think I was just going through a very normal process of grieving, and It wasn’t like I could be mad at one or two individuals, I couldn’t. I was just mad at an entire country. So, I suppressed and denied everything that had to do with that nation.” – Cornielle Nyungura.

“We had a day that made us all sad. June 20th. It always reminded us that we were refugees. We would compose songs of sorrow. 28 years down the line as a refugee/ refugees, while some others have spent 14. To those inside and outside of Rwanda, no one is happy to be a refugee. Hmmmm, I hope this sadness can fade away, yoooh, what can you show me home?” – Mariya Yohana.

“My father was always composing songs saying: “ we will return home, we will return home”.  Every week there was a song saying: “we will be returning home”. He spent 30 years teaching us mountains. I know Rwanda since the time I was refugee without setting foot in it.” – Intore Masamba.

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