Part Two of the interview with Kivu Ruhorahoza is here:
Do you have the desire to make films in other countries? You mentioned that you had an idea for a movie in Mexico — what is that about?
I am very interested in making movies in other countries. I already have stories of films set in other African countries, Europe and I’m brainstorming with myself about a story of a Rwandan woman living in Mexico. This woman would be a former prostitute who married a German humanitarian worker and after some years of traveling through poor countries they find themselves in Mexico. Their teenage son discovers the power of money and the aristocratic looks of Ibero-American university. He grows up more and more ashamed of his uneducated mother…
Tell us about your upcoming film, which will be your first feature. You described it as a “movie within a movie.”
Grey Matter is a movie about madness! It is a movie about a young filmmaker who wants to make his first feature but faces all sorts of fund-raising problems to the point where he starts confusing reality and fiction. One night, after rehearsing one scene, he falls asleep. Then we don’t know if he dreams of his movie or if he actually made it. But we get to see his movie, The Cycle of the Cockroach about a young violent man who is locked up in the room of a mental hospital and two siblings (a young man and his sister) who survived one conflict. The brother having not been there during the conflict, came back and found all his family massacred except his younger sister. To probably alleviate his pain and/or shame, he starts inventing a reality in which he suffered with his family and was even cut with a machete in his face. He then starts wearing a helmet to hide his “scar”. Ironically, his sister who is a real survivor of that conflict ends up prostituting herself to a psychiatrist so that he can treat his brother. Slowly she slips into depression and she is the one who ends up going in the mental hospital in the room next to the one of the young violent man. One cockroach moves from one room to another one…
What is the filmmaking process like in Rwanda? How do you go from having an idea to putting it into action, especially with limited resources?
There is no film fund in Rwanda. You have to be very creative once your script is ready. In my case, I crowd-fundraise, asking 100 USD to as many people as possible. I give them the choice of donating the money or just lending it to me and I pay them months later. You also have to try and get as many in-kind services as possible. A printer, a car, food vouchers, fuel vouchers, stationery, etc.
It is also possible to get money from some NGOs but you would have to seriously distort or modify your story. It is the easy way but so far I have always despised it! Many aspiring filmmakers in Rwanda have to include some elements in their story so that they can please that type of funders and it is such a pity. If I am making a movie about madness set in an African capital city, I don’t see how I can have a sub-plot of some aid worker sensitizing villagers to wash their hands before eating! And I would have to have the logos of their NGOs well highlighted in the movie…
So, it is very hard to get the film made. But if you are determined, passionate and reasonably talented, there is always a way you can make your movie.
Do you ever pigeonholed as an “African filmmaker” or has it been a freeing experience?
I hate being labeled a African filmmaker. Just call me a filmmaker from Rwanda, that’s it. Honestly, what have I got in common with a filmmaker from Morocco or Nigeria? We come from the same continent so what? My fears, my relationship to religion, to family, to authority, environment, … All that is different. And I think that is part of what shapes an artist’s vision and sensibility. When I see a movie from Burkina Faso, sometimes I am as surprised an Argentinian or a Mongolian can be about some aspects of life in Burkina Faso. The size of my country, its history, the way religions are practiced here, the weather, the music, the food, the place of the woman in the society, the sense of humor, the social codes, … All that has an influence on my work. And I am sure a Chadian would be as lost in Rwandan social codes as a Russian.
What’s next for you? What themes and filmmaking techniques do you still want to explore?
I am fascinated by other realities. The realities of a schizophrenic or a baby who can’t speak. I wonder how baby looks at the adults. Coma, dreams, drunkenness, etc? All these parallel realities are of high interest for me.
I am very also interested in the depiction of sex in African cinemas (because there are many African styles of making films). You hardly see sex in a movie from Africa while this continent, at least my country, is obsessed with it. The Rwandan sense of humor is so much about sex, there is even a sort of Rwandan Kama Sutra but it is not represented in the arts. Especially the relationship power-sex is fascinating to me. Many Sub-Saharan Africans will say that their countries are run by the wife or the mistress of the president. There are particularly vulgar terms in Kinyarwanda to talk about the power of sex. If all goes well, my second film will be about a depressive homosexual who has been deported back to Rwanda after eight years waiting for his papers in some European countries. His former friends don’t stop asking him about white girls, strip clubs that they see on TV, how porn movies are made, etc.