Some of the longest nights of my life were leading up to the BFC Burundian premieres in 2007 and 2010. Blasting through 36 sleepless hours trying to finalize everything and get all the technical issues sorted out can unfairly age a person. I hoped those days were behind me, but the Kino screening tonight took ‘last minute’ to another level. And yet, once again, I’m happy to report we hit a home run in front of a packed house.
The participants did exactly what I hoped – they experimented with the medium and deviated from straight-forward drama or documentaries. A film about the disabled made excellent use of a fixed camera position for the entire first half, while a hilarious little comedy about a goat and a dog managed to double as an anecdote about the struggle for independence. It was a modest step to the left in many ways, but also unmistakable.
In previous years, I felt our name and reputation were at stake with each screening, since we had a Burundian who’s-who of dignitaries, media professionals and foreign ambassadors in attendance for a very formal evening. Five years later, having already proven ourselves to some extent, the Kino felt more like a huge party. Everyone knew the constraints of the themed 48-hour challenge and reframed their expectations, as the room buzzed with curiosity. And I was as eager as anyone.
No one, including Rudy Kimvuidi our Kino Manager and chief technician, had actually seen all the films yet. Some projects were literally being exported and rushed in to the projection room during the screening. This meant I needed to use some delay tactics on stage, which included a mid-show thank you session and a Q&A with our master of ceremonies Natacha Songore – herself a BFC student and one of the people we sent to Trouville, France, to experience an established Kino first-hand. Our allotted time was unfairly tight, however, so I couldn’t exactly drag things out. But the additional five minutes we found made the difference between having an exclusively Burundian Kino and international participation.
A few days ago, three Canadians came to Burundi to shoot an episode for a television series about street kids. The director, Eza Paventi, is a friend from Montreal and also happens to be one of the founders of the Kino movement from 1999. Her skeleton crew, Kim Nguyen Xuan and Lawrence Côté-Collins, are also avid Kinoïtes and were all eager to participate. Their tight schedule made it almost impossible, but with less than 10 minutes to spare, they showed up with a short 50-second comedic commercial for Lac Tanganika. Having them on stage to talk about the origins of the Kino movement and the surreal experience of now being in sub-Saharan Africa felt like a perfect way to close the evening.
One of my star students from 2010 (and now the Director of the film festival here), gave me a huge hug after the screening and marveled how when I come here, incredible things seem to happen. That was a good feeling, but to be honest, knowing I was able to be more hands-off this time and simply guide the talent left me feeling even better.