Why Hollywood stars trek to Rwanda

Hollywood has “visited” Rwanda several times. Nevertheless, though some of those stars in the world’s largest film industry have visited the country more than once, very few Rwandans have had the chance to see them.
 Ben Affleck poses for a photo with a lcoal fan at Bourbon Coffee. Net photo.
Ben Affleck poses for a photo with a lcoal fan at Bourbon Coffee. Net photo.

Hollywood has “visited” Rwanda several times. Nevertheless, though some of those stars in the world’s largest film industry have visited the country more than once, very few Rwandans have had the chance to see them.

Danny Glover, Edward Norton, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Alfre Woodard, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon are some of the A-Listers that have made the great trek to Rwanda.

However, it is possible that Damon was attracted to Rwanda through his close friend and former campus roommate Ben Affleck, a frequent visitor to the country.

While each of these celebrities has had noble reasons for visiting, we cannot attempt to have explanations for the pulling power of Rwanda. After all, the country has been described as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ and a replica of rebuilding the stability from near annihilation.

For all these accolades, some of these celebrities have become common figures in the country, with the aim to start projects aimed at humanitarian work or making documentaries about reconciliation or the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

We also have our prized gorillas, Virunga National Park, Canopy walk in Nyungwe Forest and the clean city, among the main factors that attract these major figures in the world to contribute to the country’s growth and security today.

When did these celebrities visit Rwanda?

Angelina Jolie

Oscar-winning actress, Angelina Jolie has just concluded her two-day visit in the country. Jolie was visiting Rwanda in her capacity as the UNHCR goodwill ambassador.

Jolie, 38, is an American actress and film director. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards, and was named Hollywood’s highest-paid actress by Forbes in 2009 and 2011.

Hollywood A-lister and mother of six with partner Brad Pitt, promotes humanitarian causes, and is noted for her work with refugees as a Special Envoy and former Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

 She has often been cited as the world’s “most beautiful” woman, a title for which she has received substantial media attention.

Danny Glover

Hollywood star and human rights activist Danny Glover visited the country in 2009 for the closing night of the 6th annual Rwanda Film Festival.

Danny Lebern Glover, born July 22, 1946, is an American actor, film director and political activist. Glover is well known for his roles as Mr. Albert Johnson in “The Color Purple”, as Michael Harrigan in “Predator 2”, as corrupt cop James “McFee in Witness” and as Detective Sergeant Roger Murtaugh in the “Lethal Weapon.”

He has also appeared in many other movies, television shows, and theatrical productions. Glover is an active supporter of various humanitarian and political causes.

Ashley Judd

American actress, Ashley Judd visited the country in 2011. While in Rwanda, the actress and PSI Board of Directors Member, visited several programs run by the International NGO Population Services International (PSI), including the launch of Eau Sur, a water purifying solution in Rubavu district, Western Province.

Ashley Judd, born April 19, 1968, is an American television and film actress and political activist. Judd grew up in a family of successful performing artists as the daughter of country music singer Naomi Judd and the half-sister of Wynonna Judd.

While she is best known for an ongoing acting career spanning more than two decades, she has increasingly become involved in global humanitarian efforts and political activism.

Judd has played lead roles in films including “Ruby in Paradise”, “Norma Jean & Marilyn”, “Kiss the Girls”, “Double Jeopardy” and “Where the Heart Is”. She also starred as Rebecca Winstone in the television series “Missing” in 2012.

Edward Norton

UN Goodwill Ambassador for biodiversity, Edward Norton visited Rwanda in 2011, where he met with then Prime Minister Bernard Makuza and other senior government officials. He has starred in movies like The Incredible Hulk, Fight Club and The Italian Job, among others.

Alfre Woodard

Emmy Award winner Alfre Woodard visited Rwanda in 2011, with a delegation of nine Hollywood stars at the official opening of Kwetu Film Institute (KFI).

Alfre Ette Woodard, born November 8, 1952, is an American film, stage, and television actress. She has been nominated once for an Academy Award and Grammy Award, 17 times for the Emmy Award (winning four), and has also won a Golden Globe Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. She has starred in films like Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, Love and Basketball, Steel Magnolias and Radio.

Matt Damon

Matt Damon and a team from ONEXONE– a nonprofit foundation that supports the work of Millennium Promise, visited Rwanda in 2009 and the Mayange Millennium Village.

While in the country, the team filmed Matt outside a primary school in the village, in which Matt emphasises the success of the school meals program towards increasing school enrollment – especially for girls.

Matthew Paige “Matt” Damon, born October 8, 1970, is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and philanthropist whose career was launched following the success of the drama film Good Will Hunting (1997) from a screenplay he co-wrote with friend and actor Ben Affleck.

Ben Affleck

Actor and activist Ben Affleck’s first visit in the country was in 2007, when he came to explore investment opportunities for future business engagements. The actor returned in 2009 and met with various government officials.

Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt, born August 15, 1972, better known as Ben Affleck, is an American film director, actor, producer, and screenwriter.

Affleck gained recognition as a director for his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone (2007) for which he won the National Board of Review Award for Best Directorial Debut.

Natalie Portman

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman trekked into the country’s rainforests in 2007 to film “Saving a Species: Gorillas on the Brink”, a documentary about endangered mountain gorillas. She was among other celebrities who participated in the naming of 23 highly endangered baby mountain gorillas in 2007. She named a baby gorilla “Ahazaza” meaning “future.”

Portman returned in the country in 2008 for the opening of a youth village for orphans of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, sponsored by Jewish donors.

Natalie Portman was born Natalie Hershlag on June 9, 1981 in Jerusalem. She is the only child of a doctor father (from Israel) and an artist mother (from Cincinnati, Ohio), who is also Natalie’s agent.

She was featured in many live performances, but she made her powerful film debut in the movie Léon: “The Professional”. Following this role Natalie won roles in such films as Heat (1995), Beautiful Girls and Mars Attacks!.

She received an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Black Swan (2010).

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