YIDFF 2017 Africa Views
An Interview with Eric Kabera (Director)

I Want to Show the Real Faces of the People Living in Rwanda

Q: Through song and dance, we were able to see a side of Rwanda that we had not known about.

EK: This film is an introduction, so to speak, to Rwanda. For a long time now, I’ve wanted to present Rwanda as it really is. Of course, you can’t talk about present-day Rwanda without talking about the genocide. However, I wanted to give this film something that could kindle hope in others. I especially wanted to show people outside the country the voices and faces of those living in Rwanda. Certainly, there was a genocide, but that is only one aspect of this country.

Q: Would you say that this film presents the true face of Rwanda? Or is it your vision of an ideal Rwanda?

EK: Currently, Rwanda is seeing rapid economic progress, and is heading towards political maturity. However, it would be propaganda if I showed only the good things, and I didn’t want to make a film that dealt exclusively with contemporary society or politics. I wanted to show images that blessed Rwandan identity, that paid tribute to life, as well as the things that symbolize the connections between people. However, the negative legacies and trauma will never disappear. As someone who tells stories through film, I want to share this history with everyone. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to do so in various places around the world, as I do here in Yamagata. We need to spread awareness of this tragedy as widely as possible. I think that is my responsibility as a filmmaker, and my role as a citizen of Rwanda.

Q: In the film, we see some people who have overcome their trauma, and achieved some understanding. Is this a common development?

EK: It is rare for a victim and a perpetrator to sit next to each other, and advocate for peace. In the film, we have a scene about understanding and forgiveness, but the truth is that when I think of the victims’ feelings, there are things that even I find difficult to see. Actually, in Rwanda, it is the country’s policy to encourage understanding, and there is a kind of notice calling on perpetrators to ask for forgiveness, and victims to receive them with sympathy. In this society, which we might say is still in a transition period, there are those among the survivors of the genocide who, even though they won’t go so far as to call for revenge, will oppose even the act of having a conversation. However, it’s certainly true that there is a growing tendency to pay tribute, which is one symbol of this kind of understanding.

Q: I’ve heard that you are very passionate about teaching the next generation. What’s your take on the present conditions of film production in Africa?

EK: I was born and raised outside the country as a refugee, and my first visit to Rwanda was after the genocide in 1994. While I was helping foreign media with interviews in English, I kept going to these places haunted by awful memories. Then, while I was working as a contemporary history guide, I myself became involved in the production of films that recorded history.

Currently, I’m trying to establish an educational space that can teach this young, filmmaking generation. I want to build a place where we can tell Rwanda’s history, and produce documentaries, and I want to share ideas with many people. I was greatly encouraged by the fact that stories of Africa are being told here at Yamagata. When I think about the situation in Africa, I feel that we are privileged to be able to come to Yamagata. With regards to education, I can’t say that I have actual results yet, but I think that it’s extremely important work that we should be carrying out. It goes without saying, but you must have knowledge, at the very least, to tell history. Education is the key to everything. After all, if you have knowledge but are unable to draw the right conclusions, there is a danger that even the most trivial thing will lead to conflict.

(Compiled by Numazawa Zenichiro)

Interviewers: Numazawa Zenichiro, Yoshimura Tatsuro / Interpreter: Matsushita Yumi / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Nomura Yukihiro / Video: Yoshioka Yuki / 2017-10-08