Despite efforts to accommodate persons with intellectual disabilities in society, they still face a difficult existence, especially in African countries.
The treatment of people living with disabilities is informed by the mistaken belief that they are unproductive. The Ambassadors, is a documentary film that tries to dispell these incorrect perceptions.
The documentary premiered in Kigali on September 11, at Ralph Art Studio in Kimihurura. It features the experiences of those with intellectual disabilities from three different cultural backgrounds: Rwanda, Sweden and Tanzania.
It also seeks to advocate for their right to education and opportunities.
The Ambassadors is part of Come Together, an initiative that advocates for persons with intellectual disabilities.
The docufilm features experiences, conversations and thoughts of people from Rwanda, Tanzania and Sweden living with the disability. It showcases their emotions and ambitions.
According to Father Eugine Murenzi, the chairperson for Collectif Tubakunde, an umbrella of associations advocating for mentally disabled children in Rwanda, these children cannot learn in the same way as other children but they’re still entitled to an education.
The 90-minute documentary is by Jesper Tottie, a renowned Swedish film director. It starts with scenes taken in Sweden of a group of 10 “ambassadors” who are travelling to Tanzania to meet and interact with their peers, who also have disabilities.
The docufilm also emphasises the importance of enabling the children to have access to education.
One of the people featured in the docufilm is Soran Ismail the fixer — a prominent Swedish comedian. Through interactions with the children in Tanzania, the Swedish ambassadors learn that they share similar experiences.
The participants from the three countries take part in a 10-day event marked by games, dinners, conversations, weaving and musical performances.
The docufilm got support from the Sweden National Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, together with Eriks Development Partner — a child organisation working in 24 countries worldwide.
The Come Together initiative kicked off from 2013 to 2016 and partners with Collectif Tubakunde in Rwanda.
According to Mr Tottie, the docufilm was funded by the Swedish Post Code Lottery, for an estimated $500,000.
Mr Tottie said featuring persons with disabilities made the project more appealing to audiences. However, he said the project suffered funding constraints, mainly because most donors shied away because they were not conversant with the concept of the documentary.
“It is my wish for this project to be viewed in different countries in Africa in order to change perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities,” said Shemsa Iradukunda, a student from Muhanga district, and one of the cast members in the docufilm.
Mr Tottie said one of their future plans is to screen the documentary in festivals around the world.