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Yuhi talks about film-making in Rwanda

Rwandan writer, director, and producer Yuhi Amuli talks about his approach to film-making and the future of the art for him and his country.

How would you define your cinematic style?

I am still on the journey to discover and understand my own cinematic style. Currently they change according to the theme, the story and the world it is set in. But generally, my films are slow paced, with slow image sequences, editing and sound design.

How did you get started in film-making and what drove into it?

I always had the urge to tell stories since I was a young boy and had already tried to write some short stories and plays for my colleagues. I started out in Cinema after I had a chance to attend Maisha Film Lab in 2014, a screenwriting workshop that made me decide to quit my law school and pursue a career as a filmmaker. A year later after attending several screenwriting and directing workshops around the globe, I made my first short film ISHABA.

Did you have any other career in mind besides film-making?

Yes. Growing up in a strictly catholic family, I joined the junior seminary at 12. That time, I thought I had already found what I will do with my life; being a priest.

Halfway through the seminary, I was kicked out, found myself in a science school and started thinking of becoming a doctor. A few years later I shifted to a law school and contemplated a career as a lawyer. None of them was as deeply rooted in me as was the urge to dedicate my life to telling African stories I was seeing around me.

Your first film, what inspired it?

ISHABA, my first short film about Innocence and the beauty of ignorance was mainly inspired by my profound nostalgia for my days growing up.

What do you think about the current state of film-making in Rwanda?

It is gratifying to see this wave of young Rwandan filmmakers telling their stories against all odds and I am proud to be one of them. I hope they keep their momentum and I hope that one day Rwanda’s decision makers will understand how important cinema and art in general is to the development of the country and start giving these artist the support and recognition they deserve.

Where do you see your career in the next 5 years?

In five years to come, I hope to have completed two internationally distributed feature films.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am developing and working with producers to raise funds for my directorial debut feature film YOHANI, a film about the sino-african relations.  

What’s your advice for young and upcoming Rwandan filmmakers?

Preserve your artistic identity. Get inspired but don’t be influenced.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

Yuhi Amuli is an atheist.

Yuhi’s show-real

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Living like a shadow

Concept and story by Ndimbira Claudine (Shenge)

Overview

We live in a world where indifference is part of our everyday life. We create our bubble and avoid to see the diversity that humanity has blessed us with. Whenever we see something that’s different, we scare off, regardless of whether it’s dangerous or poses any threat to our way of living, we tend to include and integrate those who look, feel, think and see life like us.

Sadly, this way is living many people behind, outcast, ignored, almost as if they were forgotten, souls. This is the case of the small, but a confined world of LGBTQ people in Rwanda.

Though the country doesn’t have any direct harsh laws that prevent it, the society has created its own standard defining the new normal through their own eyes. This documentary will give a new voice to many of these young women and men who are no other but human, like you and me.

 

Synopsis

“Living like a shadow” is a 90 minutes film that will follow the lives of 3 characters. Even if some have similar issues or experiences – like living a double love life due to what the society expects from them or being judged often, each one of them has a unique story.

Visual concept

The characters will be interviewed or narrate their own stories. As 1 of them will not allow her identity to be shown other means and graphical creativity will be used to tell the story. N.B This visual concept is very rushed as I wrote this project in hurry due to the deadline. I will keep on working on it and even search more about the characters

Our first character : His story we have a look at how he is privileged and not struggling like the others. We will look at his clothing style, makeup choices, Men preferences. We follow him in a club and see how it goes when he is there. But also we get to know what is his daily life and his relationship with his father.

Our second character : We will look at her daily life by showing where she lives and how she interacts with her friends. And then we show her while she is doing her activism job. From another scene, we see how the situation with her parents and family members evolves and of course her love life. We see how she lives by trying to capture all the moments that happen in her life. We will look at how she is coping with that and also the people she frequents when she goes out.

Our third character : We will use extreme shots on body and face parts to avoid to show the character completely. While shooting at her home, we will use details that are in her room to reveal her personality. Some of those are like clothes, bed, colors of walls, the value of things in there and other things that will be helpful for the story. Those will be filmed and create scenes that complete the given interview or narration.

The other characters who are not these main 3 will be like the bridge in between these 3 stories as the film flows. As the 3 stories of our main characters will be done first, we will show them to other characters (different people) and their short comments about their own opinion on the issue will be the ones to be used as the bridge from one story to another.

Director’s statement

In 2014 I was a coordinator and a participant of a short films project called Shed light on your rights about freedom of expression. One night I happened to be at the Goethe Institut Kigali the moment they were hosting a private event about LGBTQ communities in Rwanda. Hearing all those sad and tough experiences that those people went through I thought about including that topic in that project that I was doing. I realized that being there was for a good reason – that was a call for me to rent my voice as a filmmaker and communicate that issue to the Rwandan society.

I tried all I could to make a short documentary but all the characters I cast refused to be seen and I had a very short time to complete the project as well. I did a short fiction film called SHE instead using one of the testimonies. The short film started a discussion on the topic and I received negative and positive comments but still, all I wanted to do was a documentary.

The reason why I want to make this documentary is to show the real stories so that people will understand how the situation is not fair to the LGBTQ community in Rwanda – who deserve the same rights as everyone else by the way. It was good to make a short fiction as well but it is never as powerful as those real stories through a documentary. In fiction, people may say” It never happened, it is fiction anyways!”

I believe that this film will make a change and start a discussion about the issue. It will also give the LGBTQ community a voice to claim their rights. Seeing how my own friends who are homosexuals are treated (beaten in bars, insulted on social media, living hidden love lives) it is unacceptable. All I can wish for is humanity, that the society sees this issue as their own, as none have requested the way to be born it could have been one of them or theirs – even if they don’t see it that way yet. This is the story to be told now!

Read my interview here.

 

Before I decided to work on this feature documentary, I also worked on a short film on the same topic, you can watch it below:

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Interview with Ndimbira Claudine Shenge

As a creative using our platform, Ndimbira Claudine Shenge took some time to answer a couple of questions, and show you why you should support her project. Please click here to read more about the project.

 

Why filmmaking?

I became a filmmaker by accident. I am thankful because that was a good accident. I remember when I was young I was not able to communicate even if I had what I wanted to share but I didn’t know how. The moment that I started to write songs my eyes got opened, that was a new form of commucation for me.

I tried to join a music school in Rwanda but in vain, luckily a film school was recently opened in Rwanda. I decided to join that one for the sake of being a true story teller, that’s how I fell in love of storytelling. I do filmmaking because it helps me to share stories visually worldwide. The films that I do helps the voiceless to have a voice, I give them mine as a filmmaker to use it. That’s the beauty in it, knowing that what I do matters and it can make a positive change in the society.

Tell us about this project and why you would like to do it ?

The LGBTQ community in Rwanda faces so many issues. It hurts to see people living like shadows without the right of being who they really are. The fact that none even wants to talk about it make me wonder how we call ourselves humans even if we don’t show humanity.

I want to make this film to shed light on that issue so that it can start a conversation. People fear what they don’t understand or what they refuse to understand but at the end of the day the solution is to talk about it and react positively.

What do you wish to accomplish with it?

With this project “Living like a shadow” I want to give the voice to LGBTQ community members in Rwanda to tell their stories, what they have been through, what they wish their lives could be but also to the society so that they say what is the reason why they think being gay is a problem to them.

Through the film I want especially the Rwandan audience to hear those stories; they may have never even heard how hard it could be not being accepted with the society due to who you are. I want this film to start a change in the society regarding how they treat LGBTQ community members in Rwanda.

Why should people support you?

I believe that making this film will help a lot of people in general. We need to live in this world peacefully and with equal rights. On my own there is so little that I can do, but with the help of everyone this film can be made for the good cause. I need any help that I can get to be able to accomplish this project.