After an evening of packing, sorting, and de-integrating our now well-rehearsed package of gear, Lyn & Jesse have hopped a flight to Nairobi. I’m here in Rwanda for another week, picking up extra shots, stills, and waiting on a couple possible interviews before heading to Swaziland. There is more still to be written in the story of this film, but somehow the departure of the better half of the crew is a good time to take stock.
A few things I’ll miss now that Lyn & Jesse are on their way:
- Lyn & Jesse
- Rosten Jr, a.k.a. the RED
- the sounds of Super Mario Brothers chiming from Jesse’s laptop
- Lyn perched on her chair, editing audio
- trekking across three hours of “main” road, stopping for bridge repairs and trees being felled on the road
A few things I wish I’d known before arriving:
- that we’d only shoot 500GB worth of footage (I brought 8 terabytes of storage…)
- that a portable card downloader and sling bag are necessary accessories for shooting RED
- how hard this trip would be (more on this later)
A few things I’m glad I got right:
- get a big, bad-ass pelican case. It’s always handy for keeping something safe (e.g. transferring a RED over open water, or protecting drives as bounce down the road)
- bring a backup for everything critical in the imaging chain
- local knowledge & friends on the ground make all the difference
Something I won’t miss:
- Sony gear. All things Sony seem bent on my distress.
A few things I’m looking forward to:
- some time to slow down and take stock of where the film is at
- space to wander, shoot stills and observe without impending deadlines
- time spent with our main characters outside the rigors of filming
More to come…
The last few days it has been on my mind that so many people have given up a part of their life to help this film. Even though this trip – and the story of the film – are still in mid-swing, I wanted to give some credit…
First of all, Nicholas and Elsie, our main characters who’ve opened up their lives and their story to us. At times we have searched through painful memories, dredging past distress and anguish. Though it hasn’t all been smooth, they have been gracious and forgiving of the young crew that showed up three years ago wanting to tell their story.
A few others:
- Lyn & Jesse Rosten, who’ve given so much time & talent to the film
- Chris Hansen, who’s story knowledge and advice has been invaluable in pushing the story forward
- Jeff, Jodi and Richard of The Wellspring Foundation, our gracious hosts, supporting and encouraging us and helping with logistics on the ground
- Mark Petersen and The Bridgeway Foundation: without their help, this trip wouldn’t have happened
I feel so grateful for the sacrifices these people have made. I often fail to publicly say thanks… so, thanks! By your efforts you are now an inextricable character in the making of Rwanda: Hope Rises.
- Monkeys, rainforest, pizza, winding road, broken motor, cozy cabin, steak, long sleep…
- Fixed motor, fume-induced headache, swimming, cruise, negotiations, fishermen, evening light…
- Morning light, cleanup, three-hour pound, trees on the road and more on the way, bridge out, school field trip: hauling rocks, home.
We’re back from Kumbya, on the beautiful shores of Kivu and through the Nyungwe forest. Photo gallery coming shortly…
Today we visited Bourbon Coffee to shoot some b-roll and interview Amy Karuletwa (Arthur’s wife). Bourbon is a bustling place, with the best lattes I’ve had anywhere (except maybe for JJ Bean in Vancouver… maybe). It’s a first rate coffee shop, smack in the middle of Kigali – and they’ll be opening a second location soon.
The coffee shop is part of their holistic vision, “Naturally Rwandan, from Crop to Cup.” They work with the farmers to maximize quality and pay them a premium for their coffee. They are also helping develop a coffee culture within Rwanda, and exporting Rwandan coffee as a premium product around the world.
Amy’s a firecracker and a lot of fun. Everything I’ve seen of her and Arthur’s work is first-rate quality, and I expect they’ll have a lot of success with their vision of exporting Rwandan coffee as a premium product around the world.
Tomorrow, Lyn, Jesse, Jeff and I head South to a little hideaway on Lake Kivu. We’ll be passing through the Nyungwe Forest, a place full of beauty and history. We’re hoping to get some shots of the lake, the forest and the tea & coffee fields along the way. We’ll be back late Friday; I suspect we’ll have no chance to update until Saturday.
So until then…
Strong stories are buried deep on all sides of the Rwandan story. Many are full of pain and suffering, and in some cases the divisions continue. But there is hope. Stories like the one we filmed today.
A Tutsi widow, who lost her husband and most of her family in the genocide. A bright Hutu boy, whose father is in jail for participating in the genocide. After his father’s conviction, the boy’s mother left him to fend for himself. Despite good grades he had to look for work. The widow offered the boy a job cleaning and doing odd jobs. As she learned of his needs, she helped him – she paid his school fees and allowed him to study after work. And eventually, she took him in as her own son. In his eyes she didn’t see a Hutu, the son of a killer, someone of another ethnicity. She saw a boy, a person in need of help.
Our translator, Grace, became emotional as she heard the story of a Hutu taking in a Tutsi. It is a rare and beautiful thing for forgiveness to be so complete and so real.
Still enjoying the RED… click the picture above to see a full-size frame capture. All natural lighting…
Click here to see a gallery of our trip so far.
Filming continues to go well here in Rwanda. Today we loaded up a little Robinson R-44 helicopter, and took a flight around Kigali and the surrounding area. We shot like mad – me with a 5D and my 70-200, Lyn with a 5D and 24-70, and Jesse on the RED. In the 60 minutes flying time we encountered three rainstorms, lots of sun, overcast, dense city, sparse farmland and a rainy, windy airport to welcome us home. Total damage: about 20GB of stills and moving images.
Gladly everyone’s back to healthy again. Lyn, Richard and I had to improvise without Jesse on our shoot in Eastern Rwanda on Tuesday – me on camera, Lyn as the eyeline as well as audio and Richard working out his arms on the bounce. We took Elsie to visit the land where she grew up, and where most of her family was killed. She has become friends again with many of her neighbours – the ones involved in the killing. It’s hard to describe how I felt, filming a portrait of them smiling and laughing together. Childhood friends, torn apart by ignorance and slaughter, and reunited after a long process of taking responsibility and forgiveness. I can’t ignore what these people were a part of… and equally I’m moved by Elsie’s desire to reunite and help these people to whom she lost so much.
I’m feeling at home, enjoying the work. It’s great to get behind the camera again. Directing each shot to adhere closely to the theme is a great challenge, especially considering three years of prior work on this film. But I’m enjoying it, and the freedom to be creative with it.
Tomorrow is a big day, interviewing Arthur Karuletwa. He’s recently moved to Kigali from Seattle (he was running a coffee import business). He has recently opened Rwanda’s first coffee shop, and soon will open a second. I’ve enjoyed a latte at the first location – they are great coffee shops, better than most I’ve been to in the West.
I’ll sign off with a photo gallery of our trip so far… (click the image below to see the gallery).
I’ve struggled for awhile with the theme of the third act of the film – it lacks a source of tension to drive the story: i.e. what is the present-tense hope & fear of our characters? After meeting with Nicholas and brainstorming on a giant whiteboard with Lyn & Jesse today, I think I’ve landed on it.
Often we hear people talk about the genocide and what was lost: how the Rwandese who lived through it will never be the same. They have the ideology and memory of those events permanently in their memory, and it will always influence their lives; but it does not have to stay that way. The kids being brought up now have an opportunity for a fresh start, to not repeat the errors of the past, but bring a new, prosperous and hopeful future to Rwanda.
In a previous interview, Nicholas spoke about his generation as a “bridge generation”. Those who lived through the genocide are able to bring about a different kind of future by providing opportunities for the next generation, teaching them to think for themselves, bringing them up in an environment where each person has value.
This concept is everywhere… it’s not unique to the Rwandan context. But what is unique is how conscious people are of it. They have seen the results: what happens if things do not change, if people are not able to think for themselves and don’t have opportunity. And now they have a chance to do it differently. The struggle to be a bridge for the next generation is behind much of what drives people every day.
Recognizing this theme brings clarity to the many, many good people and projects we’ve had the chance to film, and I think it will finally give a frame on which to hang the last act of our film.