As Rwanda continues in its efforts to stake its claim on the political and economic front in the East African region, the movie industry has not been left behind.
It is considered not only a storyteller of Rwandan history but also a didactic tool for behaviour change.
Rwandan audiences continue to enjoy regular film festivals and premieres; just recently, a group under the name of Rwandan Eagles screened their first ever movie Chora Chora, a Kinyarwanda movie with English subtitles based on drug abuse.
Richard Mugwaneza, the movie's director explained, Chora Chora, is a Swahili word that refers to people importing illegal substances; he said the film was to educate the youth not to be part of this business.
In the movie, 18-year-old Patrick Haguma, the main character, acts as Ludoviko, a bright student who falls into the drug trap. Ludoviko starts to import marijuana across the border of DR Congo and Rwanda, only to find that his aunt is in the same business. They are all arrested by the police, putting an end to Ludoviko’s bright future.
Rwanda Today talked to Mr Haguma, who expressed his excitement at being part of the movie.
“It is the first movie I have ever acted in and I liked how we all pulled together to bring out the message about the fight against drug abuse among the youth and young students. We are all against this menace and we should play a vital role,” he said.
Commenting on the film, Rosemary Mbabazi, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Youth and ICT, said every citizen has a role to play in the fight against drug abuse until Rwanda becomes a drug-free country.
“We have done a lot and we can’t fail to fight against this disease,” she said.
Rwanda has put in place fundamental institutions to help the film industry grow; in 2002, Eric Kabera founded the Rwanda Cinema Centre (RCC), a centre which helped in the creation of the Kwetu Film Institute use film as a medium of expression and communication in Rwanda.
The Rwanda Film Festival, whose purpose is to bring to the fore actors and producers willing to tell varied stories in relation to history of Rwanda, was then created.
Hillywood, as the cinema industry in Rwanda was nicknamed, from the hills that make up Rwanda, is making films on youth for change and outreach projects that take locally made films to the rural youth.
According to Mr Kabera, the centre is gradually developing a skills training unit that has seen more than 100 students trained and prepared for the growing film industry in Rwanda.
He added that all these developments strive to build a forum for students seeking to gain professional experience in filmmaking.
“Over the next five years, we are planning a number of exciting initiatives and opportunities,” he added.
Movies like Grey Matter by Kivu Ruhorahoza and Kinyarwanda by Alnic Brown, are now making the top five after the likes of Ikigeragezo Cy’ubuzima, Beyond the deadly pit, By the shortcut, Hotel Rwanda and others that attracted viewers internationally years ago.
Although the movie industry in Rwanda is at a promising stage, the business side of it is still struggling, as local movie fans rarely buy local movies in Rwanda.
Not only does Rwanda cinema lack a vibrant market for its movies but the local outlets and producers are said to have an eye for festivals abroad which give them more income.
Mr Kabera said processing a movie from the script to the final consumer costs between Rwf18 million and Rwf700 million.
“It is a creative industry, we believe soon more platforms will be established to create a conducive business environment,” said Mr Kabera.
Mr Kabera added that since Rwanda has adopted a law on intellectual property, business in the movie industry will be more favourable, citing people were reluctant to enter the business of producing movies amid fears of piracy.
The industry needs to do more to facilitate business growth; for example Rwanda, has only one TV station, which does not help movie producers to air their products to the public, which has not fallen in love with the local products either.
According to an employee at the Magasin de Grand Lacs, a movie distributor, street vendors do not sell many locally produced movies, with buyers preferring those produced in Nigeria and Tanzania.
“We spend a lot when buying these movies from the owners, but we don’t gain much, We only benefit because we sell them alongside those that they like most, otherwise there is still a long way to go in producing good movies suitable for the Rwandan public,” added the distributor.
Tresor Nsenga, who produced Chora Chora told Rwanda Today that close to Rwf16million was spent for the whole movie.
“We haven’t hit the jackpot yet, we are still at the promotional level. It’s like we are entering the market and we need to publicise more if we are to have consistent local buyers. Meanwhile we target foreign film festivals, because we are sure we can get even more than we have invested if our products are appreciated,” explained Mr Nsenga.
The intellectual property law adopted in 2010, which both distributors and movie producers are looking to as an important tool, has started to boost other sectors as well including music.