Rwanda full of potential - Hollywood stars

Apart from a budding film industry, Rwanda is a country on the move. From the economy to infrastructure development, buoyed by a young, energetic and ambitious population. The observation was made by a visiting delegation of Hollywood directors, scriptwriters and mentors currently in the country to attend the 7th edition of Rwanda Film Festival and conduct master classes in film and cinematography.
Hollywood actress, Alfre Woodard (R) gives lessons to film students in Kigali, yesterday. (T.Kisambira)
Hollywood actress, Alfre Woodard (R) gives lessons to film students in Kigali, yesterday. (T.Kisambira)

Apart from a budding film industry, Rwanda is a country on the move. From the economy to infrastructure development, buoyed by a young, energetic and ambitious population.

The observation was made by a visiting delegation of Hollywood directors, scriptwriters and mentors currently in the country to attend the 7th edition of Rwanda Film Festival and conduct master classes in film and cinematography.

In an interview with The New Times, Ellen Harrington, the group’s coordinator who is also the Director of Exhibitions, Special Events and International Outreach for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said that the delegation from Hollywood is impressed by the country’s vision and the ambition shown among the young people.

The group of US film personalities is currently conducting lessons in acting, producing, script writing, cinematography, sound design and stage and production designs, among others, to dozens of young Rwandans at the Kwetu Film Institute in Gaculiro.

The delegation is made up of Hollywood greats Phil Alden Robinson, Carol Littleton, Willie Burton, Lee Daniels, Stephanie, Alfre Woodard, Wynn Thomas and John Bailey , Alen Blake (Kinyarwanda), Deatra Harries, as well as Emmanuel Itier (The Invocation) and Lanre Idewu.

“None of us has ever been to Rwanda before. It is a big revelation to us in a lot of ways because this country is growing so fast, there is so much construction going on, you can see a lot of energy and potential,” Harrington said.

“There is a lot of forward thinking that seems to be happening. People look like they really want to develop quickly. The government is putting a lot of investment into education, the infrastructure is getting better ….it’s a beautiful country,” she added.

Harrington noted that the Rwandan people are working hard and focussed on making Rwanda take the next step into the future and interact internationally on a lot of levels, citing the country’s budding film industry as one of the areas the country is making a mark.

“We have seen some interesting films starting to come out of Rwanda. Some of the films that are made have been seen in different places around the world, much as there are no cinemas to screen them regularly here,” Harrington said.

She noted that some locally produced films have made it to big international film festivals as well as films co-produced by Rwandan and international producers which is a big achievement for the country’s upcoming film industry.

“We think this is just a tip of the iceberg. We see a lot of talent and potential here, we see a lot of young people interested in film making,” Harrington said.

According to Eric Kabera, the CEO of Rwandan Cinema Centre (RCC), the master classes which were conducted by experienced filmmakers and director from Hollywood, who include Oscar winners, will go a long way in boosting the country’s cinema industry.

The interaction dubbed “Hollywood into Hillywood,” according to Kabera, will help develop new film directors, producers, actors, among others, which marks a milestone and momentum in the growth of the country’s film industry.

Kabera said that the young persons who enrolled into the classes have shown the determination and ambition to join the film industry, adding that there has been a turn around where many young people are interested in telling the story of their own country through film rather than letting others tell it.

“Most of these people are curious, they want to join the business of making movies, of course movies about reality, movies about their own country, about reality, about their lives.

We need to tell our own story. We cannot wait for someone to come from Sidney or Tokyo or Cape Town to tell our own story and this kind of training gives us the skills and knowledge to tell our own story,” Kabera said.

The film festival which kicks on July 23 will feature different films; from short documentaries to feature films from Africa and across the world. Kabera noted that this year’s festival is special because it features three Rwandan movies that featured at the Tribeca film festival.

The films will be screened in Nyagatare, Rubavu, Gicumbi, Musanze, Karongi, Huye and Kigali.

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