The Kemit group is part of a diverse-to-disparate cultural movement looking to bring into being a Rwandan cinema – despite the present lack of any theater, schools, etc… We met with its founder, Francois Woukaoache, today – his focus is on documentation of the genocide from a broad-based perspective. He includes Tutsi survivors with Hutu who fought alongside them, and perpetrator testimony as well. We saw the first in a trilogy of films, together called Kyizere (The Hope); it deals with examples of community resistance to the genocide, especially across Belgian category lines. Woukoache’s style is direct: shots of the now-quite landscape interspersed with first-person accounts from people who live in the area – talking more about the structure of events than the graphics. His distributive approach to the overarching genocide narrative puts him outside of the mainstream (which orients more expressly to the survivor view). This breadth impacts funding and access to information, to a degree, as does his process-driven style – he’s dedicated to training interviewers before sending them out, and to gathering masses of material that sifts to through its nature to the appropriate subject and form. He doesn’t have explanatory theories or an exclusive point of view; he records to question and discover. This withholding-from-outcome sets him a step farther from mechanisms of funding and distribution.
He/Kemit are not alone either in documenting, or in willing forward a film culture. The Gisozi Memorial has 250 testimonies on line now, and thousands of hours of additional footage. Eric Kabera, through his Rwanda Cinema Center, gives young artists training in all aspects of feature film making. RCC is also a sponsor of the Hillywood Film Festival , which screens new African movies annually.
But each initiative has its distinctive approach. Gisozi has its highly developed physical complex (a mass grave, a museum), and Kabera has corralled a set of inflatable screens – he can set up with a generator and show movies anywhere (thousands come out for his movies, filling a hill at night. When you come to Kigali –look up Eric, who’s a great host, a; visit his rising center – beautiful, standing up slowly – it’ll house students and faculty, and is so, so close to realizing the city’s first major screen, through Eric’s prodigious will). Woukoache has a harder road, lacking building, screen, or even (as yet) a fully functioning website. But his perseverance is in line with Rwanda’s address to technology in general. First – act as if operation is possible, then operate, working out the “how” of infrastructure and culture on the way.
Running makes the road?