“Ntiryari Iherezo” (It was not the End) film premiered at the 2011 Rwanda Film Festival in July.
Gauging from the audience reactions, it was clear that the short film was headed for greater heights. At the closing night ceremony, Ntiryari Iherezo scooped the best documentary film prize and several copies of the film were sold. A month later, the story was not different at the Kenya Film International Festival, where it bagged the prestigious best documentary prize.
The film is directed by Valens Habarugira and Jean de Dieu Minani. The two youthful filmmakers made the film, with no idea of the impact that it would have on its audiences.
“We were studying electronics and communication at Tumba College of Technology when we met (Claude) Uwamahoro. I told Minani that this man had a unique story that the world would love to hear,” Habarugira recalled.
“We had never been to a film school before but a year later, our trial and error strategy worked and we had accumulated enough footage to cut into a film,” he added.
In October, last year, the film was screened to a German delegation that visited Kwetu Film Institute in Kigali. They were moved by the story and eventually acquired 200 copies to be distributed in different institutions in Germany.
Its next stop was in Kampala, Uganda for a four-day Amakula Cinema Caravan Festival at the National Theatre recently.
After a strong competition, featuring four other movies, Ntiryari Iherezo was declared the best short film. The other films screened include “Imani” directed by Carol Kamya’s Fire Fly (Uganda), which got a Special Mention from the jury as a runner-up; Boxer (Kenya), Salani (Mozambique) and Zed Crew (Zambia).
The Golden Impala jury, headed by Ugandan author Doreen Baingana alongside Charles Asiba from the Kenya Film Commission and Peter Mbwago, a Tanzanian filmmaker, lauded the Ntiryari Iherezo for its compelling portrayal of ‘disability is not inability’ in a positive and non-sentimental manner.
“In a very short time we get a deep understanding of the subject, with a dignified and hardworking character, who uses his unique skills, while his inner and outer strengths, pride and love for his family are beautifully evoked.
“The directors’ skillful preparation and rapport with their subjects was clear and justice was done to the spectacular scenery. This is truly an East African story,” the jury said in its citation.
Ntiryari Iherezo is a quiet and observant portrait of Claude Uwamahoro, a Rwandan man, who goes about his daily beekeeping business while he looks after his family at the same time. What is remarkable about Uwamahoro is that he lives without legs having lost his limbs in early 1990s. Yet his physical disability hardly deters him from his going about his daily routine.
The film is going international. “It has been selected to screen at the prestigious London’s Open City documentary-film festival in June. I will continue to share this uplifting story as much as possible” Habarugira explained.