Project Re-Introduction / The Plan 2010
“So, what exactly are you doing in Burundi?” I’ve heard that question more than a few times lately. Even people who followed the project in 2007 want to know what’s next. Before I explain, let’s recap how we got here. I’ll try and set the stage for the Burundi Film Center in a blog version of those laser, light and sound introductions you get before an IMAX movie.
“First of all, it’s Canadian.” Okay, not really. But I am. After graduating from Carleton University in 2006, I went to Kigali as part of the Rwanda Initiative to train journalists. That’s where I met Raymond Kalisa, a freelance videographer who told me about his dream to give Burundian youth the same opportunities he was getting in Rwanda to make films and tell stories. Raymond’s wife is Burundian, and although Rwanda has got a lot of attention in the last 15 years, Burundi has been severely overlooked.
Chances are you’ve heard about the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 that erupted between Hutu/Tutsi ethnic tensions. Well the same dynamic existed (and sometimes still exists) in Burundi, only instead of a 100-day genocide, Burundi had a 12 year civil war. A peace agreement was signed in 2005, and a couple years later we launched the BFC as a pilot-project under the mandate to “Inspire. Educate. Entertain.”
Placed in that larger context, our goals can admittedly sound a bit quaint or superfluous. Still, when you consider we had no funding, brought our own equipment and worked entirely in French (everyone’s second language, at best), we made some pretty great inroads. We trained 36 youth the basics of film theory and production and produced five short dramatic films that have played in over 50 international film festivals around the world. Last year we produced “Home Free”, a 22-minute documentary about Burundian refugees that is used as a teaching tool all over North America and Europe. Some of our students helped create that film, and we gave other students opportunities to train in Canada, the U.S., Germany and South Africa. We also have a traveling film festival so the films get seen within Burundi. And trust me, the IMAX experience is no match for the mean (and lively) streets of Bujumbura.
Our plan for 2010 is to once again produce five new short films and create another festival. This time, however, we’ll lean on our students from 2007 to help us with the teaching. And by us, I really mean me. We do have a team making everything happen, and although we’re much more prepared in almost every other way, I will once again be doing almost all the teaching myself. Hopefully though, one day that will change.
If last time is any indication, the blog will serve as both a detailing of the day-to-day challenges and my attempt to gain some perspective on everything. And like 2006, everything will start in Kigali, where I’ll be attending the much more establish Rwanda Film Festival with our films for a few days. Then it’s off to Bujumbura until September 1st.
Regular entries will not be this long, but I can’t end without thanking everyone who donated towards the project this year. I was incredibly inspired by your generosity, and you have no idea how much peace of mind it provides to know there’s some help carrying the load.
I’ll end by saying that when this summer’s training looked in doubt, I was reassured by Papy Jamaica, the BFC Technical Director, to push forward and that we would get lots of help on the ground. “No worries, my brother. In B’rundi, BFC name is good!” I guess we’ll find out.