Forum for Discussion


Anticipation and concern are the antithetical emotions behind every big build up. I alternated between both over the past few days before the 2012 BFC Forum. I was definitely looking forward to seeing the students I’ve taught and meet the ones that have received training from other BFC teachers. On the other hand, I was worried (based on recent revelations) that there might be a backlash over the broadcasting license for three of our films. Part of me really thought the meeting could go either way.

I prepared and printed an agenda for everyone to make sure we covered all our bases. We opened with a recap of the past five years and what we’ve been able to do here in Burundi in terms of courses and productions. Then we shifted into festivals and distribution, since I knew it was probably going to be the hot topic of the day.


I explained the near impossible prospect of making money on short films since 99% of festivals don’t pay a screening fee. Not even the Festival de Cannes, where I recently had a film in the Short Film Corner. You also have to pay for printing DVDs, submission fees, mailing costs, promotional material, etc. However, I reminded them how lucky we were to be selected for an African television program on TV5 Monde, which paid us €2,700 (about $3,500). That’s enough money, I explained, to do one of a few things:

1) Buy half of a new camera (hard to shoot with)

2) Divide into about $100 for each student

3) Invest into an 2nd level BFC course

I obviously opted for the latter, since the other options wouldn’t have put us any further ahead. There was some debate, not a lot mind you, but most seemed very grateful I had returned and was focusing on further education for our existing students rather than grooming a new batch. Fact is, most people just wanted to know the numbers, which I understand. So I broke down the costs of getting professional DigiBeta PAL tapes required for broadcast, my plane ticket this year, and how the remaining $700 would help with our expenses.

We also talked about our ambitions to have our own office so we aren’t always confused with Papy Jamaica’s business. The strategy of posturing behind his private company has had mixed results. We successfully impress producers who come to visit the BFC from abroad and potential local partners. They see our sign with many people working at computers, equipment everywhere, and even a branded vehicle that bears our logo. That helps us maintain a physical presence in the city, but it also confuses the students, who don’t know where one organization ends and the other begins. The only things the BFC actually owns are the signs themselves, a small cachet of equipment and the stickers on Papy’s van. We’re still looking for our own space, we just need some annual capital to keep it afloat.


After all the housekeeping items, we moved onto some fun stuff. We’ve won a few small awards over the past two years, and some festivals have sent us certificates with laurels to prove we screened at their festival. So I was able to hand some of those out, which was great.

Thanks to Bridget, my wife and one of the original members of the project, I also announced that this year we have grant exclusively for female filmmakers. The reaction in the room was hilariously raucous. The women erupted in cheers while the men cried discrimination. But she’s donating the money from her personal company { First Kiss Films }, so I reminded them she gets to choose how the money is spent. I threw in an improvised detail that we would also have an all woman jury, which just seemed to make sense. Shouldn’t be hard to find, since I’ve only ever come to Burundi with female teachers.

We ended the day by looking ahead at the upcoming month and next few years. Our goal is to hold specialized advance workshops (acting, camera, editing, etc), as well as start to produce feature films, which everyone was enthusiastically on board with. But in the immediate future, we’ve still got a few short films up our sleeves.

Christopher Redmond