Following the success of the just concluded Rwanda Film Festival (RFF), The New Times (TNT) caught up with Pierre Kayitana, Producer and Event organizer of RFF to speak about the outcome of the film season in Rwanda.
TNT: What were the major highlights of the 2011 Rwanda Film Festival?
The theme of this year’s festival was ‘Africa Celebrated.’ We at Hillywood adapted this theme after the 2010 FIFA World Cup came to Africa.
There is more positivity coming from Africa and we felt that the festival should focus on a research aiming to find out if there are great productions out of Africa.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of great films made in/and about, Africa and so we maintained ‘Africa Celebrated’ as our theme.
The festival’s programme was divided into two weeks. It kicked off with the premiere of Africa United—a movie about five Rwandan kids who walked to South Africa with hopes of watching the World Cup live.
This was shown across the hills of Rwanda, on the huge inflatable screens in public places like markets, football pitches and bus parks. This is what we call Hillywood.
TNT: What about the peak of the festival?
This was in Kigali where we had the opening night ovation with over 600 people and guests from the Academy of Motion pictures.
This year Hollywood came to Rwanda.
Regular screening kicked off around the city at several places with Rwandan productions attracting high priority during the Cocktail Gala Nights.
These were organized in honor of the producers and directors of the award winning movies Kinyarwanda and Grey Matter.
TNT: Some Rwandan films showcased internationally at major film festivals. What does this mean for Rwanda’s industry?
This is what we call, taking off! Finally it is a big beginning for a big project; this has never happened before! More young people are behind the cameras and writing scripts to build their economy and brand the country.
In 2011, Rwandan films went out and created more visibility in the form of Film awards in Europe and North America. We hope to see more Rwandans making great films.
TNT: What does it mean to organize a film festival?
A film festival can be compared to organizing 10 concerts in one week; everyday is a new and special day for festival organizers.
Film festivals are very important events where a selection of appropriate films that, the mainstream Television will not show or pay attention to, are screened with the purpose of bringing people together, to educate, entertain, inform and create a platform of exchange.
Organizing a Film Festival also involves bringing together various vendors in the internet, security, police, transport, hotels, safety, restaurant, travel agencies, and entertainment businesses, among others.
It takes a year to prepare a film festival. This involves the process of research, contacting a wide range of filmmakers, getting the films, planning the events, fundraising, printing, production of the events as well as post production of the festival which involves reportage, post survey, and accounting.
TNT: How much was invested in 2011’s RFF?
This year’s festival was supported in kind and about US$250,000 was used.
TNT: What about the challenges?
Funds as usual were not enough to produce the event we would have loved to have. Funders transfer their pledges late and the low understanding of film’s contribution from sponsors and the Government.
The usual trend is that it’s mostly the head of certain organizations and foreigners who follow the festival closely. They do so more than, the Rwandans working for them and their Rwandan friends, who seem disinterested or unfamiliar with the event.
The venues too, are still not appropriate to host a standard film festival; there is no film house or big enough cinema in the city.
TNT: What would you have changed?
The festival still needs to create at least a 1000-seater venue as the festival village.
TNT: What is the biggest lesson you learnt during this year’s Film festival?
There is more appetite for films especially the home made ones. Tickets should be produced much earlier and have a lot of publicity to prepare the public for what is in the pipeline.
TNT: Any final remarks regarding Rwanda’s film industry?
The Rwanda film industry is now exciting. To see that Rwandans are rushing on motorbikes, taxis, buses and their cars, leaving their offices on time, to buy a Rwf10,000 ticket, to come and attend the screening of a Rwandan film simply tells you that there is no more chance for Rwandan producers to make average movies.
These people are not just trying to get entertainment, but are making a statement to us the producers.