Saturday, March 29, 2008


Took another walk to search myself
lately I've been finding someone else
More without a doubt I do believe
that a good walk is a sweet release

Said there is a whisper in my soul
echoing in silence that I should know
what is of a sustenance to me
such a good friend, such a sweet belief

Took a little rest that I may climb
every day the mountains that I find
Yes without a doubt I do believe
that a good walk is a sweet relief

Sunday, March 23, 2008

HillyWood 2

March 19th found me in Gisenyi.
After going to bed at 3 am,I awoke at 5:30 am, packed, and met Thierry at the Kigali Express bus station at 6:30. Thierry had agreed to travel with me, ahead of the HillyWood crew, to Gisenyi to film the reunion with Mama Aline, Jean-Baptiste, and all the subjects of ICYIZERE. Francois and Jean-Pierre, facilitators for HROC that were in the film, arranged for a private room at the Dianne Fossey Lodge with a TV and DVD player. Lunch was to follow.

We were in Gisenyi by 10:30 am, and were met by a grinning Francois. The reunion at the hotel was ecstatic, faces contorted in smiles as we caught up with each other in our broken English, Swahili, and Kinyarwanda. Evereyone wanted to know about Theodora and the children first and foremost, and were happy to know that my family was well. I was happy to be back and they were happy to have me. I was a part of their family also.

Before I showed the film, I thanked them for allowing me to be at the workshop, and for the way that each of their stories changed my life and that of so many others who have watched the film. Their permission given to me was very courageous, and I wanted to honor that by representing their stories in the most faithful way I could.

As ICYIZERE began, there was a hush in the room. Mama Aline sat silently crying as she saw herself speak about her experience during the genocide. I made sure not to film the audience at the beginning of the movie, and didn't pull out my camera until they began to play "Zinaguruka(it can fly)." The tension melted into laughter, and I fought back tears. The audience moved from discomfort to laughter,laughter to sorrow, sorrow to relief, and relief to contemplation in the hour that the film played. And I was fulfilled.

Afterwards, I stood in front of everyone, thanked them again for their courage, and told them that if anyone had ANY issue whatsoever about ICYIZERE being broadcast to the town of Gisenyi, ANY reason, then we would not play it. This was a sensitive subject that had the potential to do more harm than good if misunderstood, and I did not want to cause any problems for anyone.

One by one members of the audience stood up to give speeches, thanking me for showing the film, asking for a copy, and encouraging me to show the film that evening. Even their neighbors, they said, needed to see it. Their neighbors too were struggling with the same issues and the film would help them to see a way that could help.
If this was the only thing I did while in Rwanda, I would have counted my experience as blessed.

As we had lunch, I sat next to John, the young man in the film that spoke about his experience as an orphan. He told me that he was four when the genocide occured, a child in a family of 10 that was the only one left alive. He was a streetchild for 3 years, until at the age of 7 his grandparents found him and took him in. he had not talked about his pain to anyone until last year. For 11 years he harbored his past, and when he finally released it, he told me that it gave him an openness that he had never experienced. This 18 year old, lover of Hip Hop and Lingala music, lived a life that was devaststing yet, as an orphan of the genocide, common. He represents a generation that youth the world over can relate to, and I asked him whether I could visit him to add his story to the film. "To talk to you would be very good for me. It will help. You are welcome anytime" was his response.

Before the film showed at the packed business center in the heart of Gisenyi, I addressed the crowd in a mix of English and my broken Kinyarwanda. I assured them that this film was not made to point the finger at anyone, nor to make anyone uncomfortable, but that i made the film to show how it is possible to learn how to understand each other.
As opposed to Nyagatare, where people began to leave as soon as the film began, almost everyone stayed to watch the film. They laughed at the funny parts and were very sympathetic during the sorrowed ones. People came to me as it was showing to thank me for making the film, and I again interviewed random members of the audience to ask their opinions, which were all very encouraging.

That evening, after dinner, I spoke to Ayub, the festival coordinator who in Nyagatare had told me that the film should not be shown in HillyWood. He told me that the screening went very well, and that we should show the film in Hillywood every night from then on.

I slept well in Gisenyi.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The 4th annual Rwanda Film festival began in earnest on the 16th of March, 2008, in Nyagatare, a farming community bordering Uganda in the eastern part of Rwanda. Driving in a minivan provided by the UN World Food Programme, we (Rwanda Cinema staff Olivier, Romeo, 75 year old Ramadhan, Esai, Christian, Kenya Film Commision vice president Nyatichi Sitati and myself) travelled over the flattest terrain in Rwanda as Olivier, editor for RCC and "Minister of Finance" for the festival, explained that Nyagatare was the first town that the Rwanda Patriotic Army, led by now president Paul Kagame, invaded at the beginning of the genocide.

We reserved rooms at the Blue Sky hotel, had a rather filling lunch, and at 4 pm found our way to the grounds where MTN, one of the festival's sponsors, had already set up a mobile stage on which a very animated and charismatic young lady had the steadily growing audience lauging. By 6 pm, the sun had set and the crowd was enormous. We began by showing "Better Out Than In," an RCC production about a released prisoner that chose to stay in jail. Next came "Consequences," a film about domestic abuse. The crowd watched with rapt attention, relating to the stories about fellow Rwandans and their varied realities captured on film.

Ayub, the director of the Festival, and I had spoken about introducing ICYIZERE before it screened, but due to techical difficulties with the PA system, we went ahead and showed it when the time came. I walked into the midst of the crowd, searching for impressions. It was hushed, save for intermittent clicks of sympathy. Soon after, I walked past a group of young men laughing nervously, and as I trod deeper into the crowd I noticed that one by one, people were beginning to leave.

All in all, I suspect around 200 people, mostly men, left as the movie played. Those that stayed
were quiet as they observed what must have been a radical process to them portayed on the 20 foot screen in the rolling hills of Eastern Rwanda. I stood next to a man who spoke a little swahili, and asked him in my broken vernacular what he thought of the film. "Hii filim iko mzuri sana. Inatuonyesha vile tunaweza kuishi pamoja."

"This film is very good, as it shows us how we can live together." After the film was over, I spoke to random people with the help of Christian, and all in all their opinions were the same.

As we had dinner at the hotel, Ayub sat next to me and very diplomatically explained to me that the film was one that he felt shouldn't be shown in Hillywood. Reason being that if someone in the audience was to have a breakdown, the festival was not prepared to deal with it at all. We would have to wait until the film could be shown in Kigali on the 28th of March.

Needless to say, I was deflated.

The next morning I spoke to Eric Kabera, director of Rwanda Cinema Center and chairman of the of the festival. he explained that he had previously been faced with situations where people collapsed while viewing "100 days," a movie that he produced about the genocide. ICYIZERE was a film in which people revisited their trauma, and to have reactions in a crowd of thousands would be disastrous.

While I spent the last 7 months editing the film on a more than full time basis, working with Rwandans and Burundians to make sure that it was sensitive to the Rwandan culture, I could understand the point made. During the filming of ICYIZERE, the participants were in a safe environment with skilled facilitators that knew how to handle the incredible challenges. I had hoped that the audience of Hillywood would empathize with the sorrow, yet also find comfort in the counsel, and hope in the resolution.

I said as much to Eric. After a while we decided that we would show the film in Gisenyi, Kibuye and the university town on Butare. There would have to be a detailed yet concise introduction to the film, with the condition that if it didn't go well in Gisenyi, we would pull it out of Hillywood altogether.

In 2 days, we would know.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pride is such a blessed friend

Pride is such a blessed friend
she will
turn a poor man to a king
she will
make possible anything
for whom believes in her

Pride is such a mistress cruel
she will
strip a king of crown and jewel
as he
even wisdom ridicules
while his world it falls apart

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ready, Set..........

It's 7 pm, March 15th.

The 4th annual Rwanda Film Festival begins tomorrow, with a visit to the following towns:

March 16th NYAGATARE

23rd to 30th KIGALI

I have arranged to meet with the participants of the workshop on the morning of the 16th for a private screening. Later in the evening we shall present the film to the town of Gisenyi, and I will get an opportunity to address the audience with Mama Aline and Jean Baptiste. I pray that it is received well, and that viewers ar all screenings are inspired to attend HROC workshops.

In Kigali, I will present ICYIZERE on Friday the 28th, at 7 pm. The 2nd week of the festival is chock-full of amazing films from all corners of this sphere we call home. There are filmmakers from Germany, the UK, the US and Canada attending, and films from America, Angola, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Sweden, Tanzania, Togo Uganda will be showing. This will be a great opportunity to connect with creators of amazing, important work, and I am giddy with anticipation.

Tonight is the opening night reception of the festival. It begins at 9, at a restaurant across the street from the Milles Collines (I forget the name). I thank God for the opportunity to be here, in this beautiful, mountainous country of sorrowed past and hopeful future.

peace abundantly to you all,


Friday, March 14, 2008

Woke up this morning feeling refreshed. It has been my first full night of sleep in a long time, and I felt ready for the world. I believe it has something to do with all that walking I've been doing. Jane Terry, you'd be so proud................
After a 45 minute stroll, I went to the Friends Peace House to meet up with Solange and Theoneste, Healing and Rebuilding Our Commmunities (HROC) facilitator and national coordinator respectively. We watched ICYIZERE, and their response was joyous. We are planning on a private screening for the participants in the documentary on the afternoon of the 19th. In the evening of the same day, the documentary will be shown to the entire town of Gisenyi.

This all seems a tad bit surreal, considering that a year ago I had no idea how I was going to get the money to film the documentary. I only knew that this was a story that needed to be told, and the good people from the city of Springfield helped to make it happen. It had not always been easy. As a matter of fact it has been downright difficult at times, but what has not left me is the conviction that this is what I am supposed to do. I am so grateful for all of the people that urged and prayed me through, beginning with my homegrown cheerleading section.

I took a "Moto (motorcycle taxi)" to the Rwanda Cinema Centre later in the day, and met with Jacques (my soundman during production of ICYIZERE) and Pierre, coordinator of the Rwanda Film Festival. I was greeted with open arms and a plate of rice, stewed plantains and beef. Jacques mentioned that they were looking into a radio interview to promote showings of the film, and that they also were planning on having an extra screening at the National University in Butare.

Did I mention surreal?

The rest of the day had me walking the city streets in search of a "Safaricom" calling card, which is difficult to find in the land of MTN cell phone network. I shall continue tomorrow. The festival begins in 2 days and I am, as they say, stoked.
And tired.
Lala salama.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Greetings from Kigali, Rwanda


After leaving Springfield, MO in a plane that was so small I could have shoplifted it out of the airport; arriving at an airport so large it looked like a supermall with planes in the parking lot; flying overnight while trying to sleep in a seat that could only tilt 100 degrees and embracing my mom, dad, brothers, sister-in-law-to-be and brand new niece (cute!!) for a day in Kenya, I have arrived in the Land of a Thousand Hills.

And hilly it is. I write as I recuperate from a 4 block walk from the Imapla Hotel to the internet cafe in the heart of the city center. 4 blocks, yes. Half uphill and half downhill. The land of a thousand hills is also the land of a thousand heartbeats per minute.
I am so very happy to be here. It feels as though I am home. I was met at the airport by Jacques, the intrepid sound man during the filming of the documentary, and Jimmy and Steve, official drivers for the Rwanda Film Festival.They promptly took me to the hotel, we exchanged numbers, and they told me to contact them if I needed anything. I spent the rest of the day reading and walking around downtown Rwanda. Although I was sleepy, I knew that if I slept during the day my body wouldn't adjust to the time change. Which it didn't. I took a ''nap" at 6 pm, awoke at 12:30 am (5:30 pm Missouri time) and didn't go back to sleep until 4 or 5 am. As I write, I am a tad fatigued, but with so much reacquainting with Kigali to do, that will have to wait. The film Festival starts on the 16th, and I plan on being completely in tune with night and day by then.

Thats it for now. I can't send pics as of yet because of the slow connection speed here, but one of these days I will spend as long as I need to to give you a glimpse of this beautiful place. I will also make a slide presentation for the good folks in Springfield.

God bless you all,


Thursday, March 6, 2008

here we go

I've never done this before.
I write this blog as I'm preparing for my presentation at the Clara Thompson Hall on the Drury Campus. I'm a little nervous, which I suppose is a good thing, if I can channel my butterflies into an engaging presentation. 

I am so excited about returning to Rwanda, yet the thought of leaving my family makes my heart heavy. Thank God for my beautiful supportive wife who not only supported my travelling, but insisted upon it. She's my "Hard Headed woman, who makes me do my best." 
There goes my first baring of my digital soul.