Mpyisi: A budding filmmaker keen to take Rwandan film to new heights

As a child most of her time was spent indoors watching movies and cartoons while other children played outside. Such is the memory of Kamikazi Mpyisi, a young budding filmmaker.
Kamikazi during her camera work. / Courtesy
Kamikazi during her camera work. / Courtesy

As a child most of her time was spent indoors watching movies and cartoons while other children played outside. Such is the memory of Kamikazi Mpyisi, a young budding filmmaker.

“I remember this one time when my father asked me, ‘what do you want to be in the future?’ I was watching Steven Spielberg’s movie, E.T and I said I wanted to be like him. A filmmaker,” Mpyisi recalls.

When she joined university in Nairobi, she opted for a course in International relations but cut it short and decided to return home.

“I realized that the course wasn’t working for me because I wasn’t motivated. When I came back home, I joined Kwetu film institute and luckily for me, they had just began a two year program in design,” she says.

Kwetu film institute is where “all the passion and all the dreams for film fell into place.”

“When I started the two year program my father reminded me, ‘do you remember when you said you wanted to be a big film director?’ Somehow it hit me and I realized that I could still go for that dream. You know, we might have dreams as young people and think that they are just childish but I thought ‘why not try just try out.”

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Mpyisi is passionate about filmmaking and wants to own a production company. / Courtesy

The 28 year old admits that even though she was driven by passion, her two year program in media design wasn’t child’s play. It was very technical for the young passionate beginner, mostly involving camera, editing, sound, and lights.

“I wanted things to happen right away, yet before you make a film there are things that you need to know a lot technically. That learning experience, however helped me very much in the filmmaking journey. We were required to carry heavy equipment, to the sympathy of many but I always had to prove that girls can do anything and that helped me get to where I am now,” she says thoughtfully.

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Kamikazi (m) is currently shooting a documentary about her grandfather Pastor Ezra Mpyisi (far right).

Fast forward, Mpyisi successfully did her first short film a few months ago while in Germany, and has done camerawork for three documentaries and shot and directed her first music video a week ago.

She is also currently working on her first feature documentary of her grandfather, pastor Ezra Mpyisi, one of Rwanda’s oldest pastors known for his incisive style of preaching.

For her stories randomly, depending on the mood she wants to use to create something, as an artist.

“When I am looking at something, thoughts and feelings come through and I get a story out of it. Everything needs to be planned but before the planning, that’s where all the strange magic happens. Every day is a film because nothing is the same as yesterday,” she says of her storytelling.

As a filmmaker, with a soft and emotion personality, Mpyisi views herself as a storyteller who prefers to transmit her emotions into film as she displays alternate realities on screen. 

“Usually I really love to make films while being outside the box because I love details that bring a lot of emotions. Somehow I love to do things differently instead of the same usual things, and that way, I try to think outside the box. I do things in a catchy way because I get very emotional and I try to transmit those emotions through film,” she further explains.

Her daily motivator has always been about positivity in every aspect of life. “I feel like what you give out to the world, bounces back. I always try to be positive no matter the situation and hope for the best. For me that’s how I go about life and that has been key to my success,” she says with assertion.

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Kamikazi Mpyisi: “When I am looking at something, thoughts and feelings come through and I get a story out of it. Everything needs to be planned but before the planning, that’s where all the strange magic happens. Every day is a film because nothing is the same as yesterday.”

With misty eyes that depict her emotions, she adds that her family too, has always pushed her to be the best that she can be and make sure that they show that they are there for me.

As a female filmmaker, something unusual in this country’s film industry, her challenges has always revolved around proving her capabilities and worth.

“My challenges as a female in the industry have helped me discover who I am in a way, because I get motivated and work hard to prove myself. It’s more of a discovery than a challenge on what I can do. I believe that any woman can do anything,” she says.

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The 28 year-old recently shot and directed her first music video. / Courtesy

Her three and a half years’ experience in the film industry have showed her many loopholes in the entertainment industry.

“We still have a long way to go in the film industry. There is little interest and not so much funding in local films. Most of the people making local films are doing it individually but I wish to see more film makers in the film industry because there is so much local talent, visions, and we need more people to tap into the Rwandan talent, she says.

Her dreams are to“own a production company, get as much experience as possible and make as many Rwandan films as possible to put Rwanda on the global scene, and show people that we have so much to offer. I would want to explore every area in the film industry.”

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