Gorilla Tales

Blog 19

There’s a proverb in Burundi that, when translated, goes something like “by sitting around, the gorilla lost his chance to get a tail.” I don’t know exactly what to make of the saying (as sitting around is something of a national sport over here), but I have a feeling the Burundi Film Center may have lost the chance today to have its proverbial tail in the form of a travelling film festival.  


Waking up things seemed to be going business as usual - we had a meeting with the director of operations for the ministry of youth and sports (which was supposed to be with the Minister himself) that forced us to explain the overall benefits of a film industry instead of staying on point with the festival at hand.  It punctuated a much larger problem we’re facing here, which is that many people have a hard time understanding exactly what we’re doing. Film training and festivals are largely a foreign concept and despite the huge desire for their stories to be shared on film, sponsors and funders are very slow to jump on board and help. Goodwill and hard work has taken us to the point where we’ve trained 36 students the very basics of making films and have produced five 10 minute short films.  Getting a general audience won’t be a problem, but getting a means to travel the films around will be. And unfortunately, goodwill doesn’t fill gas tanks or rent equipment.


Our intention was to have a V.I.P. premiere on Friday, July 20 followed by a travelling festival for a week.  The program was made (including a selection of foreign films, many of them Canadian) and invitations were painstakingly being printed on nice thick card stock paper at a cost and pace that just wasn’t working. The process of inviting people was a whole other problem, since we are holding it in a space that seats over 600 people. The decision was finally made to use the nice invitations for ministers, ambassadors and businesses, photocopies for students and friends and reserve a V.I.P. section for everyone with an invite.  The rest will be open to the public, which hopefully ensures we fill the seats and lowers the expectations a bit in terms or formalities. The corporate advertisers we were depending on have been stalling too long and forced us into Plan B – and that’s just for the premiere. The travelling element to the festival, which is supposed to start the very next day, will be a shadow of what we expected if there isn’t a last minute sponsor. Even the inflatable screen and projector, which Raymond took a five hour bus ride to Kigali, Rwanda yesterday to go get, ended up not being available.  We’ve been negotiating for two months to use it and at the last second our film centre “brother” changed their entire song. For the sake of professionalism I’ll spare the details, but it’s not the first time we’ve ran into some elements of the community who see us more as a threat than a partner. We’re now negotiating with a private source to get the equipment at a cost I don’t even want to guess.

I sincerely hope today is not remembered as the day it all went to hell.  Raymond tried telling me another saying, which was that “if you touch hell, don’t hold on.  But if you go through hell, don’t turn around.” Onward we go, tails a blazing.

Christopher Redmond