Drum Roll Please…
I’ve always hated when people sit back and tell me “don’t worry; it will all work out in the end.” It dismisses the effort involved in pulling something together and diminishes those who have to step up and actually get things done. Tonight, however, it did work out. The festival premiere has now come and gone, and thanks to everyone’s hard work and encouragement, we pulled it off against all the odds.
Last night, the fortunate among us got about three hours of sleep before getting up at sunrise today to get everything in order (Papy didn’t get any sleep, staying overnight in the office to transfer the actual films to a mini-DV tape). Bridget painstakingly printed, cut and folded hundreds of programs, Sabrina ran around decorating and I made one final push to drum up support from our ‘big fish’ potential sponsor. I cursed my phone (funny, since the ‘big fish’ was a telephone company) and just crashed their office about three times in as many hours until I came out with a signed advertising contract. The paper in my hand, which I drafted in about 15 minutes between negotiations, was signed by both parties and legally binding, but just a piece of paper. They insisted they wouldn’t be able to pay until they had an invoice for services rendered. It’s the day of the festival, time was ticking and it was proving to be a deal-breaker, so I bite my tongue and smiled and wished them all a good day. Our rent money had to serve as a temporary loan, so our extremely patient landlady is probably equally to thank for that working out.
Raymond tracked down a woman to borrow crates and bottles from to get our 75 cases worth of beverages. Instead of renting her supplies, however, we made a deal to sell her all our left-over stock at a reduced rate after the festival, which becomes a win-win situation for everyone. We eventually decided against selling drinks since we weren’t properly set up for it and wanted a little more of a V.I.P. feel. Ironically, this meant we would make more money by having less people attend the festival. Everything is backwards in Africa, if you haven’t figured that out yet.
Finally it was show time and the Burundian drummers we hired to open the festival were unreal. We’ve seen at least five different troops since we’ve arrived, at music festivals, clubs and weddings, but all paled in comparison. The acrobatics and showmanship in their performance was world-class and got everything off on the right foot. Then, somehow in the mess of getting everything together Bridget (also taking pictures) and I turned into our entire tech team. Raymond was busy greeting the Minister and our other V.I.Ps, as well as presenting the Burundi Film Center on stage, (ie: the glory jobs – it had to be done that way, but don’t think I haven’t punched him in the arm over it). Bridget also created an eight minute slide show for the premiere which was a treat for me since I said it was the one thing I actually wanted to be a surprise that night. Seeing the whole first phase of the project completed and documented on screen gave me chills, and seemed to validate the students’ certificates.
Since we started our training, those simple papers have been more valuable to the students than the films themselves. Education of any sort can’t be overvalued in Africa, and their certificates, officially signed and stamped by the government, now represent opportunity for them. I don’t think I appreciated that enough until I met their parents, relatives and jealous friends last night. We called the training “Level One: Introduction to Film Theory, Pre-Production and Production” since in the long term we would like the BFC to offer an advanced level and masters level, plus specialized classes (such as editing, which we really didn’t have time to properly teach). For now, and even if the Burundi Film Center never again sees the light of day, they’re all further ahead to realizing their goals than they were before. Plus we made five of what I’m unapologetically claiming are the best short films ever made in Burundi – which by the way, will start to travel on Monday, thanks to everything working out in the end.