Last Thursday, all roads led to the America Embassy – Kigali, where movie lovers gathered at the embassy’s multi- purpose room, to celebrate an evening of films.
‘Lyiza, Saa-Ipo’ and ‘Shema’, directed by young Rwandan filmmakers Marie Dusabejabo, Jean Luc Habyarimana and Kayambi Musafiri, were some of the films premiered.
The films were commissioned by the Tribeca Film Institute and produced by Almond Tree Films Ltd, to represent Rwanda at their premiere.
Almond Tree Films Ltd was founded in 2004, by a group of young people— Harvesters, from Hong Kong, who had come to Rwanda during their summer mission through YWAM Rwanda ministries.
One of the team leaders, Valerie Chu, a wife to Lee Isaac Chung, a film director based in Brooklyn, New York, shared with her husband the story of these young people- their potential and talents.
In May 2006, Isaac and his wife Valerie decided to travel back to Rwanda and train young people who were part of a drama team and harbored interests in video and film production.
After training, Isaac supervised the team in releasing their first film dubbed ‘Munyarugabo’. The film was in 2007 an official selection of the Cannes film festival (France). ‘Munyarugabo’ was screened at Toronto International Film Festival (Canada), Berlin Film Festival (Germany), and won the grand prize at the AFI Festival (Los Angeles)
Speaking at the event, Melanie L. Edwards, the Public Affairs officer at the U.S Embassy, reaffirmed the embassy’s commitment to support the local industry.
“We are excited that this evening you choose to join us in supporting Rwandan filmmaking and celebrating the work of Almond Tree Films Ltd,” Melanie said.
The films were professionally written, adhering to the three-act structure of a great story – beginning, middle and end. Character development was successfully done. The end of every movie screening was met with thunderous applause a good indication that directors concerned had done their homework well.
“Our main challenge is finances. Our goal seems to be greater than our means. We need more qualified trainers as many young people are still joining us,” Richard Mugwaneza, who directed the three films, said.
“Our culture is also a challenge. Many youth prefer white collar jobs and sometimes parents and leaders are not fully convinced that film industry is just like any other field,” he added.
Mugwaneza, who was selected to represent Rwanda at the prestigious 4th talent Campus in Durban South Africa, noted that: “I am very proud to be my country’s eye. I hope to learn a lot from different participants from all Africa and beyond who will be converging there. This marks a milestone in my filmmaking career.”
Almond Tree Films Company is partially sustainable through its clientele work (weddings, ceremonies, church videos, advertisements, music videos) and also relies on grants and donations from generous contributors.