Rwanda Film Festival is back

Rwanda’s flagship film event, the Rwanda Film Festival is back. In its 13th edition this year, the festival will run from October 23rd-29th at various locations not only in Kigali, but also upcountry. The theme for this year is; Frontiers.
Actors and directors shoot a film recently. / Courtesy
Actors and directors shoot a film recently. / Courtesy

Rwanda’s flagship film event, the Rwanda Film Festival is back. In its 13th edition this year, the festival will run from October 23rd-29th at various locations not only in Kigali, but also upcountry. The theme for this year is; Frontiers.

Also known as Hillywood, the Rwanda Film Festival has over the years established itself as one of the country’s premiere cultural events.

For an entire week, film lovers, industry professionals and filmmakers will partake of the best in new films from established filmmakers, as well as newly emergent talent both local and international.

Eric Kabera, the founder of Rwanda Film Festival and the Kwetu Film Institute explains that the festival’s principle objective is to promote and encourage awareness, appreciation and understanding of the art of cinema in Rwanda.

“Our mandate is to present the most outstanding films produced in every part of the world,” he explained.

“As a filmmaker and president of this film festival, I was mainly inspired by seeing how in other countries, people book tickets months before the event, take long journeys by train, flight and boats to go and attend a film festival. Once there, they don’t only travel in space but they travel emotionally, culturally and spiritually.

We will embark on a similar adventure here. The growing number of young Rwandan filmmakers, some of whom have come from the Kwetu Film Institute, and other independent young talented filmmakers, will help us take you on a journey of joy, happiness and rediscovery of culture and identity.

We are humbled by their passion and the love of cinema as a tool for education, empowerment and the social, cultural consciousness that our times and the African continent need the most.”

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Liane Muhoza Mutaganzwa who won an award for the film ‘My shade’ is also a nominee for this year’s awards. / File

The screenings will showcase African, Asian, American, and European produced films.

Some of the screening venues in Kigali are; the Kwetu Film Institute, Innovation Village at the Kigali Public Library, the Goethe Institute, Club Rafiki in Nyamirambo, and the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

There will also be a special children’s program with the Root Foundation.

All screenings are free and open to the public.

VIP opening and closing galas for the festival will take place at the Kigali Marriott Hotel on October 27th and 29th respectively.

“We want to use the first two days of the festival (October 23rd- 24th to really focus on education, and filmmaker support. We’ll also host some special events on those days. On the 25 and the 26, most of the team will be in the rural areas, but we’ll still have evening screenings in Kigali,” Neiman added.

“This year the Rwanda Film Festival has a bold new theme of Frontiers, which allows us to explore what it means to discover ourselves through powerful interactions with others, to break barriers and explore the world around us through film and art,” explained Eric Kabera, the founder of the Rwanda Film Festival.

Kabera says it’s the festival’s moral obligation ‘to educate, empower and enlighten people’s minds using film’.

“We have the moral obligation to educate, empower and enlighten peoples’ minds using film. Film is an incredible tool that can help shape everything from a business mindset, to the political, social and cultural consciousness of a nation.


What our continent and country needs, is to grasp the educational power of film in exploring history, culture, ideas and achievements; especially as we face the challenges of our times.

Observing conflicts and madness as well as the joy of unity and peace is indeed why there is the real need and urgency to organize this respected Rwanda Film Festival every year. We allow our people to travel through the images and visuals that we gather from around the globe and in doing so, they learn and grow.”

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Eric Kabera says the festival’s principle objective is to promote and encourage awareness, appreciation and understanding of the art of cinema in Rwanda. / Courtesy

The Rwanda Film Festival comes on the heels of the just concluded Yagamata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan, at which Kabera represented Rwanda. The weeklong festival run from October 5th-12th in the Japanese city of Yagamata.

His award-winning 2014 documentary film, Intore was screened alongside more than 100 films from across the globe.

“It is very surprising how curious the Japanese audiences are in discovering other cultures. Most of our films had a full house, with questions, appreciation and also deep understanding of the issues addressed in the film. 

That is one of the reasons why we decided to set up the Rwanda Film Festival back home so as to educate and empower our people as well,” Kabera noted.

“Film is a very powerful medium to understand issues and educate the youth and also enlighten the community, with our middle class and political elite needing this medium as being seen here in Japan! We want to encourage people to invest into the medium so that Africa can record and share its own story and history as we continue to learn from the rest of the world. Film and media arts school at Kwetu Film Institute is indeed the beginning but it needs to be more than a one person investment, it should be a collective effort as seen in other parts of the world.”

As has been the case at previous editions, there will also be a special “Hillywood section” during the festival, with Musanze and Rubavu districts in the Northern Province already ear marked for the purpose.

Dubbed the “cinema to the people”, the Hillywood section is part of the festival’s travelling Hillywood program, traversing different parts of the Rwandan countryside to stage screenings of Rwandan films produced in the course of the last year.

“The section mostly features local talents. 90 percent of all the films shown during our travelling cinema are made in Kinyarwanda, allowing us to reach Rwandans everywhere and ensuring that our message is clear,” explained Sophie Neiman, the festival coordinator.

“Each day of Hillywood is both artistically and morally rewarding. Most of those enjoying our outdoor screenings have never seen a film made in Kinyarwanda by local Rwandan filmmakers and actors before. The first time they experience cinema in their own language is always moving for them. This powerful audience reaction to Hillywood gives us many reasons to make sure that we are working hard to keep this wonderful tradition alive in every edition of our festival,” she added.

Frontiers, the festival’s theme this year is well reflected in the festival program, which will include a panel discussion dubbed Women and Film, sponsored by the Goethe Institut. There will also be a panel discussion on justice and film making, sponsored by the Canadian High Commission in Rwanda.

The festival will also draw some guest filmmakers, including Christoph Cotteret, the French film director who is best known in Rwanda for his 2017 documentary, Inkotanyi, which tells the story of Rwanda’s liberation war and struggle led by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) to stop the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

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Christoph Cotteret, the French film director who is best known in Rwanda for his 2017 documentary, Inkotanyi will also attend the awards ceremony. / File

Cotteret will teach a film master class on the geo-political documentary.

Also expected at the festival is American filmmaker Irene Chagall, who will present her work and teach class.

“The theme for this year is Frontiers. We hope to look at what it means to create and break barriers between people and places. We will examine frontiers in both the personal and the political sense, examining what it means to grow and overcome man made challenges and internal struggles, as well as social issues such as the changing meaning of gender and technology,” revealed Neiman.

She further explained that this year, the festival received over 100 submissions, and worked with different foreign embassies in Kigali to select the films.  

Some of the participating countries include; America, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Israel, South Africa, Sierra Leonne, Spain, Sudan, Uganda, and hosts Rwanda. 

This year, China has been nominated as the guest country at the festival, and will be represented by the Chinese Embassy in Kigali. To this end, five Chinese films will be screened during the festival, as well a special Chinese screening.

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Erica Kabera talks to journalists after the screening of Intore at the Yagamata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan recently. / Courtesy

Kabera lauded the efforts of the various stakeholders that over the years have propelled Hillywood to the success it currently enjoys:

“We appreciate the government of Rwanda through the ministry of Sports and Culture for the institutional support being provided; we salute the efforts and courage of our government and top leadership that has inspired us to commit our efforts in sharing the values mentioned above in using film as an executive educational tool.

We are truly grateful that international guests, embassies and numerous organizations have come forward to support this noble cause. We cannot thank you enough on this. We are humbled by your dedication and commitment.”