Film in Rwanda started way back in the colonial era. Open air screening of movies, mainly about Christianity was popular back in the day. These were mainly to convert Rwandans to Christianity.
Shortly after, educational videos started showing concerning different issues such as Agricultural practices like tree planting.
Cartoons mainly stereotyping Africans and their ‘primitivity’ were on the scene after the genesis of the educational videos and open air Christian movies.
Between the 1930’s and ‘50s, a movie from Hollywood featuring some Rwandans, ‘King Solomon’s mines was also showing. After that, Rwandans started viewing documentaries showing African wildlife.
According to Eric Kabera, the founder of Rwanda Cinema Centre, the movie industry in Rwanda kicked off in the year, 1997. It all started with the movie, ‘100 days’ which was focusing on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“There has been tremendous growth in the Rwanda movie industry. Over 15 feature films and 50 documentaries have been shot since then by Rwandans. The technicalities involved and quality of movies has incredibly improved over the years as well,” Kabera says.
Kabera says that back then, Rwandans used to view their culture and all through the lens of the white man but now we are able to tell their own story.
“We are now telling the tale of Rwanda. We are now creating a platform to ensure that our films are made to reflect our pure and actual status, reflection, vision and future,” adds Kabeera.
He says that 20 years ago it was virtually expensive to shoot a movie, the reason why the film industry had been left in the hands of foreigners.
He says that the movie industry in Rwanda is picking up and anticipated to grow enormously now that the Kwetu Film institute is established.
“We have started up the Kwetu Film Institute to train those who aspire to be actors and actresses. Acting skills will be taught thus improving Rwanda’s movie industry in terms of quality,” says Kabeera.
He says the Rwandan audience has also started responding positively.
“On a recent screening of ‘Kinyarwanda’, the movie, we had a turn up of over 700 people which was very good. It shows that Rwandans now appreciate their own culture and movie industry. Back then, people wouldn’t attend such screenings,” says Kabeera.
Sasha Dusabe, a movie lover says that the Rwandan film industry has enormously grown.
“Back then, every movie was about the genocide which isn’t a bad thing because our history is so vast and important but there is need for diversity which we are seeing now. Different issues are now being tackled besides the genocide,” said Dusabe.
“The quality of the movies has also improved so there is hope that Rwanda will reach Hollywood standards in a few years,” she adds.