We made it to Sundance!

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Moon Road Film’s first narrative feature “Things of the Aimless Wanderer” by Kivu Ruhorahoza has made it to Sundance 2015! We are over the moon of course and are now working hard to produce all the needed deliverables, before we set out to Park City, Utah in January. We are 99.9% there.

We are incredibly proud to be there and share the spotlight with an array of great films, actors and directors, as part of the New Frontier section of the festival (and beyond). As with Kivu Ruhorahoza debut feature “Grey Matter” (Matiére Grise), when I first set my eyes on the raw rushes I knew we had another great film in our hands.

Shot in its entirety using the inexpensive but powerful Black Magic Cinema camera and a set of Samyang prime lenses, this film was made without any funding other than the producers’ own resources and contacts, relying on Ruhorahoza’s eye, the strength of his story, a powerful soundtrack and the performances of its young cast as its the driving force.

 

The film playing in his head
by Antonio Rui Ribeiro

When I was in Rwanda in October 2013, shooting a film for Al Jazeera English called Justice Seekers broadcast on occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, I met Kivu in Kigali for a catch up and a few drinks. One thing was clear: this was a filmmaker with a sense of urgency, a need to go and shoot his next film no matter what. Little did I know at the time that when he said he wanted to shoot something and had these images in his head, of a man from a not too distant past roaming the forest, that these images would then become Things of the Aimless Wanderer.

Like Balthazar, a character in his first film Grey Matter, Kivu Ruhorahoza too started to imagine the story and playing it out in his mind with such urgency, that despite a lack of finance (and I mean film financing), things went ahead anyway. Driven by an obsession to tell a story.

After an intense shoot, temporarily halted due to a motorcycle accident involving the lead actress Grace Nikuze, a lack of hard drives and time constraints with some of the key locations, Kivu finally arrived in London in early September for the post-production to begin. In the first few days, I watched two films that influenced Ruhorahoza’s approach in the making of Things of the Aimless Wanderer: Chris Marker’s film Sans Soleil and Manuel Gomes’ Tabu (2012). After watching both films and studying Kivu’s concept and mock-up of the narrative, the ground was set for the post-production journey to begin.

 

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Photo by Laura Radford, http://www.lauraradford.com

About “Things of the Aimless Wanderer”
by Kivu Ruhorahoza

A white man meets a black girl. Then the girl disappears. The white man tries to understand what happened to her and eventually finish a travelogue.

When the first explorers visited East Africa, the local Bantu populations called them “wazungu”. The word comes from the verb “kuzunguka”, to spin around, as a result of the explorer’s propensity to get lost in their wanderings…

Things of the Aimless Wanderer is a film about the sensitive topic of relations between “Locals” and Westerners. A film about paranoia, mistrust and misunderstandings.

Half a century after African independences, one would have imagined that relationships between African “intellectuals” and the West would be appeased by now. But more than ever before, tensions are rampant and mistrust is at its peak. In these times of easy access to the Internet, those who consider themselves depository of African authenticity are alert to the Things of the Aimless Wanderer. The ways of the Westerner.

1.   Fear of hybridisation: The fear of hybridisation engenders violence. Real or perceived. All societies are violent. And violence is normal. “Authentic identities” are sweet illusions and those who think it is their responsibility to preserve them are dreamers. Dangerous dreamers. There are more and more African voices rejecting everything “western”. There is increasing paranoia about how far we can go at embracing the ways of the westerners. African intellectuals have failed to conceptualise African modernity and the only possible modernity left for us is now Western. There is growing resentment towards Westerners defining the new cultural norms and being the sole narrators of the African story whatever that is. The “foreign correspondent” is a particularly hated figure in modern Africa because he seems to have a monopoly of the opinion on African matters.

  1. White Man’s Burden: The foreign news correspondent believes he is invested with a sacred mission. He has romantic dreams about the status and lifestyle of a news reporter on the African continent. There is still a certain type of glory, early 20th century type of glory, that one can easily achieve in this part of the world. It is cheap glory but it is glory nonetheless.

3.  Patriarchy: All the males in the story feel like they can save the young woman. In their own ways. The foreign news correspondent wants to save her from her reactionary males. In his opinion, she is the typical, mysterious “African princess” that these men can’t appreciate the right way. The local men want to save her from the immoral influences, the Western ways of the foreign correspondent, the Things of the Aimless Wanderer

 

My thoughts on the film and the process of making it

1.  I am not afraid of black magic. Cinema is magic. The moment I heard about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and its specs, I realized that many of us would have no excuse anymore. I’m a little surprised many fellow filmmakers are still reluctant about all this new technology… Can they afford to? After a disappointing three years trying to traditionally develop my second feature film, Jomo, I decided I was done. I would try something different.

  1. I am tired of being nostalgic of things I never knew. I’ve never worked with millions, I’ve never worked with 35mm, not even an ARRI Alexa. Why impose myself those prerequisites to make a feature? Following the same logic, I don’t always need to conceive films using models invented in the 20s and 30s. Is it possible to write a script in MS Excel? Certainly. Do I really need Courier or Courier New fonts to write?
  1. I don’t want to become a professional brainstormer. From 2011 to 2014, I talked about ideas, wrote treatments, pitched them, brainstormed, over and over again and got pretty much nothing done.
  1. If it takes me eight years to make a film, it better be a masterpiece. Not another unoriginal, technically perfect but emotionally laborious movie. Filmmaking is no longer for the “chosen ones”. Films are magnificent and complex objects but the process of making them needs to be demystified and lightened up.
  1. “A lot of people are unnecessarily slow. It drives me crazy. One of my M.O.’s is “Just get it done.” I hate all that pitching and stuff behind the scenes: “Oh, we have to get this to make it.” However I can bypass all that and just make the movie, I do. I’m proud of that. I can actually get these things done. That’s the worst! Waiting around and talking about movies, waiting for this or that deal? If you truly love filmmaking and getting things done, just go and you can do it.” James Franco
  1. It’s honourable to want your crew and cast to be paid normal wages but it’s even better to make a film and finish it and get it seen. By any means.
  1. There is a new and unpleasant trend of “writing workshops”. This is where original ideas go to die. I don’t want 86 hands on my project. What I needed for this project was a compact group of talented and committed people who could preferably accomplish more than one specific task. I wanted trust, instinct and intuition to have a preponderant place in my creative decisions. With no budget, no shooting permits, a lot had to be improvised during production.
  1. Sony Labou Tansi, the great Congolese author, once said he makes bastards to the French language. He felt that reproducing the exact same, or even better, French syntax was a violent denial of who he was. I intend to make a few bastards to “cinema”, that kind of cinema where the most banal and ordinary films are developed for over five years, last 90 minutes and cost three million dollars for a one-week theatrical run and a 0.5% return on investment, if you are lucky.
  1. Am I afraid of winning the “Most Pretentious Film Award”? Yes, a little. But, damn, it feels good to work on my terms, improvise, dare.
  1. I want to work. I just want to work.

Werner Herzog Talks ‘Queen Of The Desert’

 

 

 

Posted by
Antonio Rui Ribeiro

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I received confirmation that the footage I shot  has made it to the final cut of ‘Queen of the Desert’, from Werner himself:

“Dear Antonio, what we used are your winter and spring scenes and they look very impressive in the context of the film. I would like to thank you for your collaboration on QUEEN OF THE DESERT. It has been such a wonderful work we all participated in.”

Needless to say I can’t wait to see it on the big screen come September this year, when I imagine the film will be released. Here’s a recent interview on IndieWire:

Werner Herzog Talks ‘Queen Of The Desert’ & Makes “Ominous Prediction” About Nicole Kidman’s Performance|The Playlist.

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)

I have seen this film as part of a Herzog double-bill at Sheffield Doc Fest last year and it blew me away. This was a film presented together with ‘Burden of Dreams’ about Herzog’s ordeal during the filming of ‘Fitzcarraldo’ a 1982 epic starring Klaus Kinski. Little did I know last year I was about to work with Herzog on his latest film ‘Queen of the Desert’.

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werner herzog eats his shoe (1980)
Werner Herzog bets fellow filmmaker Errol Morris that he won’t be able to complete his debut feature Gates of Heaven (1978). Herzog is so convinced that Morris won’t be able to finance and release the documentary about pet cemetery business that he’s willing to eat his shoe, if his friend should succeed. Morris does indeed succeed, but will Herzog live up to his promise? You better believe it. After boiling his boots for 5 hours with a little garlic,herbsstock, salt and hot sauce – Guten Appetit! 

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Werner Herzog’s latest film

I am currently completing time-lapse photography for Werner Herzog’s new film: “Queen of the Desert” is a chronicle of Gertrude Bell’s life, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the twentieth century. This is one of the most challenging things I have done and I am working under the supervision of Peter Zeitlinger, the award-winning director of photography responsible for a good number of Herzog’s films. So a real honour to be involved.

“Queen of the Desert” also has a top cast, with Nicole Kidman playing the lead role of Gertrude Bell and an amazing supporting cast that includes Damian Lewis (Homeland), Robert Pattinson (Twilight), James Franco (127 Hours) and many others.

It’s been a pleasure to liaise with Werner Herzog on the artistic goals of the scene I am working on, he is one in a million. And he has a great team working again with maverick producer Nick Raslam and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. A lot will be said about this film and I am really looking forward to watch the completed feature, which will be released in 2015.

The Religion is the Blues

“If Eric Clapton is God,

then Billy is the turtle upon which the universe rests.”

Stewart Lee

This was my first feature-length documentary, shot throughout a period of three years. I love the life and work of Billy and what he represents in what is a declining industry for many. You can watch the trailer of the film here:

 

Billy Jenkins, a renowned British Blues singer and guitarist, has been playing his shows – part music, part stand-up comedy – across the UK and internationally since the Punk movement of the 1970s. Revered by many and leveled with the likes of Robert Wyatt and Eric Clapton by the critics, he is today unable to earn a living from his music. With the decline of traditional music sales and following a period looking after his father-in-law, a dementia sufferer, Billy decided to train to become a Humanist funeral officiant. 

The film takes us through Billy’s music and inspiration in his early years and a career spanning four decades, offering a rare and intimate insight of his newly found spiritual role and his very unique take on religion, life and death.

The film also includes poignant contributions from comedian Stewart Lee, Guardian’s Jazz critic John L Walters, singer Claire Martin, promoter Simon Thackray, amongst others.

From avant-guard performances with Trimmer & Jenkins, Burlesque, The Fun Horns of Berlin, improvised musical boxing Big Fights, to directing Anglo-Belgium and London Meets Vienna ensembles, Billy’s idiosyncratic career is far reaching, both in the way he has influenced other well-known musicians and in his own inability to conform to trends and fashion.

Immersed in some of best British Rhythm and Blues music available today, this documentary provides the viewer with a rare and intimate insight into Billy’s uncompromising path, as he reinvents himself and the music that he plays.‘The Religion is the Blues’ ultimately traces Billy Jenkins re-emergence from a period of lack of hope to one of frank inspiration and musical joy.

Here are some of the best quotes from the press about Billy:

 

‘The wayward master of the woebegone’ 
Rob Adams Glasgow Herald 

 

‘Only one in 20,000 English bluesmen inhabits a recognisable reality. Step forward Billy Jenkins, anarcho guitarmeister and arch-demythologiser. Pure genius’. 
Mike Butler City Life 

 

‘American readers will be baffled by him; but he is, along with the Princess Royal and Walthamstow dog stadium, one of our national treasures.’ 
Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD 

 

‘His humour surely springs from a deeply moralistic, even puritanical stance, and surely the adjectives normally applied to Jenkins – such as ‘zany’ and ‘quirky’ – actually diminish what in reality constitutes a serious and savagely satirical attack on commercialism and consumerism.’ 
Trevor Hodgett, Jazzwise 

 

‘Billy Jenkins has the priceless ability to merge serious music-making with absolute lunacy, and make the one feed off the creative energy of the other’. 
Kenny Mathieson The Scotsman 

 

‘Next to Jenkins, chroniclers of modern Britain such as Pulp seem like feckless dilettanti’ 
Richard Cook, New Statesman

A trip to research a genocide

Rwanda, April 6th 2013. A day shy of the 19th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsis, a funeral is held at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. It’s a modest affair with a handful of people attending. A woman clenches a bunch of flowers and from time to time wipes her tears with a handkerchief. A wooden casket is lowered gently into an opening made at one of the plateaus covered by concrete slabs. It is here where an estimated 250,000 people have been buried. Down below a group of four men decide where to place the coffin, there isn’t much space and caskets are stacked six and seven high in places. They find a space on top of one of the stacks and gently lift and place the casket there by hand. It contains the remains of up to nine people. Most of the remains of the estimated 800,000 people slaughtered during the 100 days the genocide lasted have now been buried but every so often, when digging the foundations of a new building or roadworks, it is common to come across human remains. 
 

Many years have passed
since the genocide, but for many it feels like yesterday; although this year’s ceremony at the Genocide Memorial was marked by a low key event attended by President Paul Kegame, his wife, ministers and a small number of diplomatic guests, it was later at the AmahoroStadium where thousands had the opportunity to remember their dead in a candle-lit vigil. On our way to the stadium we met a survivor, SpecioseMukayiramg who lost her husband and three children during the genocide and we visit the school where they first sought refuge in the belief the UN soldiers also stationed there would protect them, only to be abandoned later at the mercy of their killers following the contingent’s withdrawal. The decision that led to the withdrawal was due to the killing of ten Belgium soldiers from UNAMIR, the peace mission operating under a UN mandate and made out largely of Belgium forces.
At the stadium the night progresses with songs and choirs and gradually the shrill screams of those overwhelmed by grief and trauma can be heard from amongst the crowds. The sight of people being carried out of the stadium and handed to the Mental Health teams, drafted for the occasion, became common place.
 
Next day, a journey towards Gisenyi in the North West of the country begins. The roads are full of windy curves around a largely mountainous terrain. As our 4 x 4 continues its ascent, we came across a group of men, working on the side of the road with pickaxes and shovels.  They are men who confessed to their role in the genocide and asked for forgiveness, thus being enlisted in the up-keeping of roads and highways. Under the guise of armed guards we are able to speak to them. Continuing our journey through the mountains and as we near the border with the Congo, the site of the RPF heavily armed military patrols becomes common place.  Our 4 x 4 approaches a village in the mountains near Gisenyi in the North West of the country. Here, with the help of the locals, we are able to find the houses of both a man accused of perpetrating massacres against its population and of its victims, side by side. This is a characteristic you will find throughout Rwanda. Many stories of survival, forgiveness and reconciliation, in particular amongst a new generation of Rwandans. 

We drive back towards Kigali and make an unscheduled stop at the Nyamata memorial site in the Bugeseraregion, approximately 35 kilometers from the capital city of Kigali. Nyamata and the surrounding region suffered some of the most extensive devastation in 1994, a result of targeted attacks during the Genocide Against the Tutsi. But amid the carnage and devastation that engulfed the country in 1994 and its legacy, there is a young generation of Rwandans who are optimistic about the future. We meet a a Tutsi man who married the Hutu daughter of those involved in killing his family and today he is the one supporting his wife’s mother out of his reparation money. Back in Kigali we meet Dydine, the young founder of Umbrella, an NGO that enables young people from all backgrounds to come to terms with their experiences and memories through film; and Marcel, a successful young entrepreneur who runs a popular news website in Rwanda. He was one of only two out of 2,000 people who survived a massacre. They talk about their hopes and aspirations for the future of their country. They also reflect on what remembering and justice means to them.

Rain Through Stone is not a film about who is right or who is wrong, who is guilty or who is innocent. Instead the film aims to provide a complex and rounded portrait of international justice mechanisms and the role memory or the absence of it plays in the public consciousness both in Rwanda and the West. Through the intimate and personal journeys of our characters we ask a vital and pressing question: how do we deal with the magnitude of genocide and the passing of time. What will remain engraved in stone for posterity and what will be washed away?

‘Rain Through Stone’ was the working title of the film which then became ‘Justice Seekers’ EDITED 02.06.14

Gilad and all that Jazz

I am currently editing a new documentary: ‘Gilad and all that Jazz’ is a film about Gilad Atzmon, one of modern music’s best saxophonists, and one of the most controversial public opponents of Israel. Born into a Zionist family and serving briefly in the first Lebanon War, Gilad left Israel for London, where he currently lives. Since then he has produced some of the modern era’s greatest Jazz albums, and collaborated with Ian Drury, Paul McCartney and Sinead O’ Connor. The film is directed by Golriz Kolahi and produced by Contra Image.

Grey Matter at Tribeca: We won!

The film Grey Matter, has scooped one award and the Jury Special Mention as part of the World Narrative Feature competition:

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film
Ramadhan “Shami” Bizimana

The jury said: “In a world shattered by genocide, this performance was so pure.”

Special Jury Mention for
Kivu Ruhorahoza, writer and director of ‘Grey Matter’

The jury said: “For its audacious and experimental approach, this film speaks of recent horrors and genocide with great originality. We wanted to give a special commendation to this filmmaker for his courage and vision.”

This happened at an awards ceremony in the W Hotel in New York city on 28th April, attended by founder Robert De Niro, the organisers and filmmakers. Being back in London, I logged on to the Tribeca Festival’s website and watched the live streaming, which was a bit ropy at times. So, it was really by being in contact with the film’s producer, Dominic Allen, by text, that I got the news without the delay.

“Grey Matter” premieres at Tribeca in NYC, April 2011

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Grey Matter (Matière Grise) has had an overwhelming response at the Tribeca Film Festival. The two screenings I attended were completed sold out, which was fantastic and the reactions were very positive indeed.

I arrived from London via Boston and stayed bang in the middle of the action in West 15th Street with 7th Ave.

The first night there I just went out for a pizza and needed an early night before the big D, our World Premiere at the Clearview cinemas in Tribeca.

The next day I met up with Kivu and the producer Dominic from Scarab films. We agreed by consensus that it would be better to dress as smartly as we could. And I think we were kind of right because once we got to the cinemas, we were ushered by security up the escalators and straight onto the red carpet to face a barrage of cameras and flashes. Here’s a video made by the festival, including an interview I shot in Kigali with the director Kivu Ruhorahoza:

The world premiere was completely sold out and after we had a Q&A with the director. It was a very moving experience to watch thing on the big screen. And since then there have been a number of good write-ups on the press. Here are two:

The New York Times

The New Yorker

And today I found this on the Euronews website.

First we see one of the films with Keira Knightley, then our movie. It really feels all a bit surreal. But no doubt a very promising run in what is a festival with a international reputation, now celebrating its tenth anniversary since it was founded by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro (one of my all time favourite actors) and Craig Hatkoff.

Another thing that was absolutely incredible is how the festival is being hosted online. It has a very direct link with virtual audiences. I know this because I have become one myself, now that I am back in London.
Yesterday, I logged on to the festival’s website to watch the live streaming of a talk with Alec Baldwin interviewing the director Doug Liman. The talk started with an introduction thanking the streamers as well as audiences, so we really felt counted even though we weren’t there physically. The guys at Tribeca were also chatting live with us and we could comment all the way through the talk. Very, very interactive experience. I even invited my friends on Facebook to attend. It was that crazy. I really do believe this sets a precedent in the use of social networks and live streaming, really amazing stuff. Thumbs up to the Tribeca Festival. I met such wonderful people there. I think I could see myself living in New York city.

My trip to Kigali Rwanda, to finish editing ‘Matière Grise’ (Grey Matter)

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Kigali in Rwanda last week. I was invited by the director and producers of ‘Matière Grise’ (Grey Matter), a feature film I started to edit a couple of years ago. It’s strange how things work out sometimes. I remember not too long before this trip, I was saying to my cousins who live in Mozambique that it would be great to work in Africa at some point. First a little background:

In 2009 I was put in touch with the writer and director of Matière Grise (Grey Matter), Kivu Ruhorahoza via Facebook, through one of my friends the producer Suzy Gillet. We never met in person, but Suzy found out I was an editor and introduced us both. Soon after that, Kivu made a trip to London to work on the film with me. It was a great experience, although at the time all I had time to do was a first cut, which he then used to promote the film and to try and attract the much needed completion money. Time passed and eventually Kivu made contact, very despondent, because he hadn’t been awarded the completion funds he was hoping for. Without the money to finish the film, things weren’t looking good.

Then in 2011, all of that was about to change. Someone at TriBeCa (I think one of the judges or programmers) had heard about the film and was curious to see a cut. The film made an immediate impact and was included in this year’s lineup of the festival. And everything changed. Since this time, Kivu has had a number of high profile interviews about the film and the programmers have made a special mention about the film in their opening announcement for this year’s lineup.

As a consequence, I made the trip to Kigali to make the final cut of the film with Kivu. Whilst there, we worked very hard and I took some additional RAM memory to kit out the only Mac Pro available at the Rwanda Cinema Centre. We joked it must have become the fastest computer in Rwanda (10GB RAM)! The hard drives weighed a tone as hand luggage and I had to stop at every customs point to take them out of the bags. “No, they’re not containers, they’re hard drives, no I’m not selling them, yes, I’m a film editor. Would you like to see them?”

When I arrived, Kivu and Zara, a Pakistani-American volunteer working for an NGO there, picked me up from the airport. I then went to her place where I stayed for the duration. It was a large house. Zara was absolutely lovely to us, bringing us food to the editing room and spoiling us with late night meals and oatmeal with cocoa for breakfast. This was the view out of my bedroom window.

In fact, wherever we went in the evenings, they all seemed to be very large houses. But I couldn’t help feeling an emptiness, a certain abandonment about them. Some of the houses, still bared the scars of the genocide, with bullet holes in the wooden beams and slightly twisted window frames, not quite shutting properly. In one particular house, where a Swedish journalist was living, there were a number of people killed there. And despite the sense of occasion our visits seemed to have (maybe because I was new there, it just felt that way), this uncomfortable truth seemed to always be there in the background, staring at you.

I met some great people working at the Rwanda Cinema Centre and whilst working on the final cut, we had to do some pretty complex work. For example, scene 8 in the film, we had to re-record the entire dialogue with the actors. This was due to the fact that it was shot on the first day of filming. According to Kivu, everything that had to go wrong, went wrong. There were no microphone cables, so the only way they could record the audio, was using the mic of a mini-DV camera. Good enough for the first cut, absolutely not for the final article. Fortunately, I had taken with me a high quality digital recorder (Tascam DR100) and we used its unidirectional mic to record just about everything. It was a real life saver.

Another great thing is the music, absolutely beautiful in its construction and simplicity. Some of his musician friends spent some time with him in a recording studio making/composing original music for the film. And somehow, things fitted perfectly. It’s funny how sometimes, when time isn’t on your side, things just slot in, out of sheer obstinate persistence.

One thing I also loved, was taking the moto taxis there. Maybe with hindsight they aren’t the safest way to travel around, but hey, what the heck! It got me in the mornings to the MTN Centre. On the top floor they had a coffee shop with a great view over Kigali where you could eat a full English breakfast (that’s how British I’ve become!…)

After breakfast, we went to work at the Rwanda Cinema Centre.

An amazing oasis of creative activity, with stop motion and filmmaking workshops taking place, lot’s of young people taking part. It’s amazing what they are doing there. Nearby, I visited the construction site for a new cinema centre. Things seemed to have stalled somehow. When I visited the centre with Kivu, it was very much a building site and the only site of other people was the security guard we woke up when we got there. But they have big dreams for this space with Morgan Freeman as one of the potential sponsor so the work can progress. Found this video on Youtube about the Rwanda Cinema Centre:
In the office where we were working on the edit with our super-duper fast MacPro, there was a young writer called Apollo. He was writing a sitcom based on Dicken’s Hard Times, transposed to the Rwandan context. And this bustling of creativity seemed to be happening wherever I looked within the Rwanda Cinema Centre. A great inspiration on perseverance and how artists in the country are turning towards the moving image to tell their stories.

Then, at night fall, it was time to join the party, some party. There seemed to always be a party somewhere. Beer is cheap, so cases of Musik (the local beer) just kept on coming. I met some incredible and crazy people there, working for the UN, Red Cross, UNICEF, the Norwegian Church Aid and other NGOs. Also met a few Europeans who don’t really know why they’re there, they just are. One particular night, we went out to a night club called Le Must. A very strange combination of a dance floor and a bar with a large flat screen showing BBC World News. It was dancing and listening to Congolese Music that I learnt Britain was bombing Libya!

When we managed to lock the final cut of the film, I was able to really see the film for what it is: An ode to madness with all its nuances of uncertainty and sadness. I couldn’t control my tears. I really, genuinely think the script is brilliant, the direction is firm and the film has moments that really remind me of Italian expressionism. The actors amplify the characters voices through some great performances. I’m so happy to have been part of the process of making this film. Kivu and I shook hands and on that night we went out to celebrate. Properly. The evening ended with us drinking from a selection of single malt whiskeys, out in the porch of two of Kivu’s friends from Norway. We watched the sun rise and fell asleep.

Later that day they both made an amazing breakfast with pancakes, coffee, fruit and yogurt. I don’t remember having such a good laugh.

The last day before I left, was the hardest in a way. It was time to look the beast in the face: the genocide of 1994. It is true, I had been working on afilm which dealt to some extent with the traumatic aftermath of the genocide. It is true that every Rwandan I had met during my ten-day visit, had been directly affected by it. Everyone had lost someone dear to them. One particular person, an actor in the film, had lost 15 people. His sister and him were the only people left to tell the story. The writer and director Kivu Ruhorahoza had his family obliterated on his father’s side. His mother had a miraculous escape,saved by a neighbour, who himself took part in the genocide. So yes, to confront the genocide was hard, but it had to be done. I could not go to Kigali and leave without trying to understand what actually happened there for a period of four dark months from April 1994. The Genocide Museum is located by a burial site, a number of mass graves where the remains of 250.000 people are. By the time I finished my visit, I couldn’t find a rational explanation for what had happened there. First came the propaganda to systematically diminish and de-humanise the Tutsis. Through cartoons and jokes in the paper (so, so similar to what was done to the Jews in the wake of the second world war, the anti-semitic cartoons). Then came the parties where food was given, machetes and transistor radios were distributed. Radio played a vital role in the genocide and was a much valued medium to receive news. When Orson Wells broadcasted ‘War of the Worlds’, America was left tense, fearful of an imminent invasion by Extra Terrestrials. In pre-genocide Rwanda the air waves were full of inflammatory broadcasts, creating fear, a sense of impending doom, of disgust towards the Tutsis. “If you don’t do something about these cockroaches, they will come and kill you and your children. Destroy them all and you are carrying out God’s will”. The film ‘Grey Matter’ replicates such a radio broadcast. Then, finally, the lists with names and addresses of the Tutsis were secretly distributed. All that was needed was a flint to set the country on a murdering rampage. And it happened. The president’s plane was shot down and an hour later the first shots were heard. 7 people died every minute. Of a population of 6 Million, 1 million was murdered. With machetes, guns, blunt instruments, anything was a murder weapon. When I came out of the museum and sat down next to Kivu in the garden outside, all I could say was that I couldn’t understand how something on such a horrific scale could have happened. How could a neighbour who had attended another neighbour’s wedding, take upon himself to murder that same family, men, women and children. How can a priest turn his back on his petrified congregation, hiding under his church’s roof and then order the bulldozers to knock the building down? What can happen to one’s mind to unleach something so evil and incomprehensible? And how can one deal with the aftermath of such a cataclysm? Kivu said that when the man who saved his mother died in prison in 2002, he went to his funeral. He wanted to know what it was like for those present, what kind of emotions would he feel. What would it be like, to mourn a convicted murderer. I asked him, what was it like? He said that when he saw his family around the coffin crying the realisation dawned on him that despite the hideous acts the man had committed, they were crying for a father, in the same way anyone does when they loose someone dear to them.

I left Kigali thoughtful and grateful for what I had experienced in the short time I was there. Now, I’m very much looking forward to go to New York on 20th April, see the film on the big screen and look at people’s faces as they watch what I believe is a rare and beautiful film.

For the TriBeCa Film Festival’s page for the film click here.

To join the film’s Facebook page, click here.

Matière Grise has made it to TRIBECA!

Great news! The film Matière Grise has made it to the Tribeca International Film Festival in New York. This is great as I know it has been a very difficult journey for the director. This feature film follows a group of young people as they come to terms with their lives after the Rwandan genocide. Kivu Ruhorahoza is one of the most exciting young directors currently producing work in the African continent. This is his debute feature film and his short films have been acclaimed at some of the leading festivals across the world. The film was entirely shot on location in Rwanda. I worked as editor and assembled a first cut with the director during his time spent here in London.

13/04/2011

Brilliant news! The director of ‘Matière Grise’, Kivu wants me to go to Kigali in Rwanda to cut the film with him. This will be to assemble the final cut of the film before it is sent to TriBeCa Film Festival.

So I’ve just had my jabs this morning, I’ve got my ticket and will be flying out there this Friday for 10 days! Can’t wait.

I will be posting photos as and when I can.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

 

A Man from Lewisham

Following some brilliant feedback since the screening of the film at the Leeds International Film festival, we are now extending the documentary to a full-length piece. Since then, I have been meeting Billy to talk about life with its peeks and troughs and we’re gathering some brilliant new footage.

This includes new footage of Billy’s time spent in Hilly Field’s Bowls Club during the Christmas snow storm in London, more archive footage from his days as Trimmer & Jenkins and the Burlesque period with some very wacky musical experiments in Belgium. Also we are about to film (tomorrow) a recording session with some of his closer collaborators (Dillan Bates and Mike Pickering) in a studio in Bromley, together with the recording of a BBC radio show with some top celebrities, including comedienne Jo Brand.

Anyway, watch this space! I’m feeling kinda good about it, as I’ve already edited a very good new chunk. Here’s a link to the trailer.