African share at the Grammy table

An invitation to the Grammy awards is a dream many filmmakers hold dear. Many produce films for a lifetime but are never honoured with the glimpse of such recognition.
Cultural dancers.
Cultural dancers.

An invitation to the Grammy awards is a dream many filmmakers hold dear. Many produce films for a lifetime but are never honoured with the glimpse of such recognition.

Ethiopian Independent filmmaker, Haile Gerima has defied all odds with his latest film ‘Teza’. The film won the Special jury prize at the 65th Annual Venice Film Festival early this year.

This award is an inspiration to our local film industry and a mark of the possibilities within an industry many feel is a domain of the West.

The film maker was born in Ethiopia, March 4, 1946 but later migrated to the United States in 1968 to study theater.  He has been a distinguished Professor of Film at Howard University in Washington, DC since 1975.

Throughout his career Gerima struggled to get funding and was ignored by Hollywood just like many other independent filmmakers. He has had doors slammed at his face but he did not stop filming.

He founded a distribution company at a time when he was unable to distribute his films. He has had to rent theaters in order to show his films.

He explains that he believes that we are all objects of history that has been written for us but film is an avenue through which we can express our history the way we see it. He encourages African film writers to embrace their culture and to move away from Eurocentric film writing.

“We feel we are making our last stand in the cultural struggle, that is the struggle to make our own image,” he told

By reclaiming his past with film, Gerima is doing just that and creating a future for African cinema in the process. He is setting the stage that will be a platform for African film to finally have a taste of world recognition.

Gerima’s dream is not far from that of our very own Eric Kabera, founder of the Rwanda Cinema Centre. The center’s mission is to promote the growth of the film industry in Rwanda through training and quality film production.

The center is dedicated to training local students on films and promoting their work in film festivals in Africa and around the world.

Gerima had to move to the United States for training and to make it in the  film industry but with quality local film training; Rwandan artists do not have to go so far.

One of the center’s major projects is the Rwanda Film Festival, held annually. In June this year the centre will be holding its fifth event. The festival aims at promoting local films and filmmakers.

It brings together a host of films from across east and southern Africa promoting the work of upcoming filmmakers and highlighting the region’s upcoming movie capital, appropriately dubbed ‘Hilly wood’.

This year however will be different as the festival will also introduce awards to the best films, writers, directors and actors from the region.

Jacques Rutabingwa is a renowned film maker in our country from one of his works the ‘Isugi’. He says that the film industry in Rwanda is still young but through programmes like the film festival the world will be exposed to the local film talents.

“The festival gives us a chance to tell our story, the story of our country” Jacques explains. He adds that the festival will promote the film culture among the Rwandan people and to communicate the message of peace and reconciliation through quality entertainment.

The Rwanda Cinema Centre is committed to providing exceptional programmes for students interested in the dynamic fields of film, video, TV and new media.

In mid February the center is scheduled to launch a four-week intensive training program that will cover all areas within film making. This programmes is designed to enhance skill to already existing talent.

“Film industry is just like any other industry in the country, if you invest in it you will benefit” says Jacques Rutabingwa.
Daniel Kalditz, the centre training men tor assures that this course will prepare students for a great career in film.

“These courses, the first of their kind in Rwanda are designed to meet the urgent need for skilled film makers in the country. We hope to expose the students to the available career avenues in film and to challenge them to venture into the film industry” Kalditz explains. He continues to say that in January next year the centre plans to open a film school that will offer specialized courses in film.

“With special training, film makers will be able to easily produce quality films that will be recognised across the world,” he continues.

The Centre applies the practical learning method and most of the students currently have produced their own films. Christian Gakombe is one of the centre students and has already written his own film entitled, ‘The Monument’. He hopes this is a first of many  to come.

Gakombe believes that the film industry has so much potential and he encourages young people like himself to venture into it. He is optimistic that through film he can earn his a livelihood.

Currently the film industry is not legislated like other industries in Rwanda. Film makers are however hopeful that in future the government will introduce a film commission that will promote local films both locally and internationally and introduce laws to govern the industry.

The center has already trained over a hundred students and many continue to enroll. The future of film in the country seems to be in hands of the youth, and if their dedication is anything to go by, then we should get ready for a bright future in film.

This is a future that will see local films get international recognition. It all starts with a step, The Rwanda Cinema Centre has taken that step.

They will need all the support they can get to ensure that the dream of receiving an invitation to the Grammies becomes a reality.


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