Rwandan blog writes about Ayuub and SIFF

As you may have heard, we were able to raise the necessary funds to bring Ayuub to Seattle for the premiere of Finding Hillywood. Thank you to everyone who donated! This is a dream come true for our entire team. A fellow filmmaker and friend of Ayuub wrote the following article about Ayuub’s journey to SIFF. This article is taken from, a Rwandan website about cinema. We hope to see you at SIFF this month. For tickets, go to:

Rwanda Ayuub Kasasa Mago at the Seattle International Film Festival

If you were to say that Ayuub Kasasa Mago is one of the pillars of Rwandan Cinema, you would not be far from the truth. He’s one of the few who has done everything in cinema and done it well. He’s been director, location manager and even an actor. He’s been doing it for 10 good years.

Ayuub has worked on all major Rwandan films as well being location assistant in the movie “The Last King of Scotland” with actors like the great Forest Whitaker and Kerry Washington.

Known for being a quiet but resolute man, he knows what he’s doing. He told us that even when he’s not acting in films, he tries to help others as much as he can with script writing and advice. “Yeah I try to help when people ask me, I can give you the example of the film of a young man called Karimba, I don’t remember the name of this film but I helped him out. I am also doing some location work for Annette Uwizeye who is also working on a film.”

Ayuub told us that he believes the Rwandan film scene has improved but there’s a long way to go. Now he’s off to Seattle, USA, for the Film Festival to be held there. He’ll be there for the premier of the 7-minute film “FORA” which he did with Canadian Lynn Beaudin.

But he’s not just there for “FORA” but he’s also one of the characters in a documentary called “Finding Hillywood” directed by Leah Warshawski and Chris Towey, both from the US. The documentary talks about the inception of Hillywood and the direction Rwandan film is taking. The movie also talks about film as a reconciliation tool post-genocide after the 1994 genocide.  


David King R.

I think Ayuub Kasasa has many talents because even before he went into film everywhere he worked he demonstrated knowledge and talent. I think he can excel in any domain given the opportunity. As he said film in Rwanda still has a long way to go but we need his advice and his insights on what should be done specifically. 


All I can say is it’s true he knows what he’s doing. I worked for him on site for one of his films. He deserves an award for his work on Un dimanche à Kigali, Shake hand with the devil… He’s a hard worker and so quiet. Same as Juvens Ntampuhwe, Jean Pierre Sagahutu…

Working for Finding Hillywood


My name is Kaitlyn and I joined the Finding Hillywood crew back in June after meeting Leah at a Seattle filmmaker forum.  Her story of filming in Rwanda and creating this documentary resonated so perfectly with me because just a couple years earlier, I had finished my own documentary (also based in Africa).  Upon seeing the trailer, I was immediately drawn to the stories of and by the Rwandan filmmakers.  I knew I wanted to lend a hand in whatever way I could.  Since then, I’ve been helping out as a Production Assistant, taking on a variety of tasks.  I have been fortunate in my career to work on a couple projects that are much more than “work” but have become a labor of love and a source of deep inspiration.  Finding Hillywood is one of those projects.

I am excited to see what’s in store for Finding Hillywood this year!  Thank you for being a part of this journey – I hope you will keep in touch with us via Facebook and Twitter, as we expect great things in 2013!

BPeace and Finding Hillywood


BPeace and Finding Hillywood

Last week, we met with BPeace to discuss the Rwanda film industry and what we could do to help filmmakers there find work. The following is what BPeace sent out to its members. We’re excited about the possibilities!

Can Bpeace help accelerate the growth of the nascent Rwanda film industry?

Last week, Bpeace convened an impressive group of filmmakers and Rwanda fans to debate the issue. The answer is yes, especially since 2014 is the 20th anniversary of the genocide and attention will once again be on the country in a big way.

Bpeace will take our first step by creating a filmmaker/vendor e-marketplace to match creators and suppliers.

By monitoring engagement on the site, and further conversations, we will determine whether Bpeace’s model of apprenticeships can accelerate the growth of jobs, especially for women. For us to go beyond the site development will require funding, and partners who can create a film-viewing culture in Rwanda.

Bpeace already has a core membership in film. (Where’s Waldo see if you can spot them above?) Now we have 10 more filmmakers, directors, actors and distributors who are joining Bpeace after the Rwanda Film First brainstorm.

BPeace Researchers on Rwanda’s film industry


Authors Ashley Harden (center) and Ann-Elise Francis (right) meet with an aspiring Rwandan filmmaker at Bourbon Café in Kigali, Rwanda, August 18, 2012 (Courtesy Ashley Harden).

This is a guest post by Ann-Elise Francis, special assistant to the vice president in CFR’s Meetings and Membership department, and Ashley Harden, research associate in CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy Program. In the post they share findings from their recent trip to study Rwanda’s nascent film industry.

Films have always been seen as a tool to create social change. They can also be a major driver of private sector growth. In the United States, the film industry supports 2.1 million jobs and pays approximately $143 billion in annual wages. Film industries in Africa—including South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria—are also significant. In Nigeria, “Nollywood” is the country’s second-largest employer after the agricultural sector. It makes more than 2,000 films a year and generates roughly $250 million in revenues by exposing foreign markets to Nigerian-made films. As a result, support for the film industry is growing on the agendas on many African governments, including Rwanda’s.

Rwanda’s film industry has the potential to create jobs and generate capital, whether projects are funded by foreign production companies or Rwandan filmmakers. The industry has already attracted international investment, spurred entrepreneurship, and aided the growth of Rwanda’s tourism sector. Films made by Rwandans have received international acclaim at many prestigious film festivals, such as Tribeca and Durban. Through film, Rwandan artists try to reclaim narratives presented about their country. Some explore the lasting effects of collective trauma generated by the 1994 genocide, while others focus on the promise of the future that an economically competitive Rwanda could bring.

Rwanda’s film sector is still in its infancy. It started only in 2003 with the founding of theRwanda Cinema Center, and it has struggled to expand in the face of legal and tax barriers and a culture unfamiliar with film.

But despite these barriers, Rwandans are passionate about growing the industry. Dozens of production companies have sprung up in Kigali. A few technical training centers have been established to develop and enhance filmmakers’ skills. Private organizations such as Kwetu Film Institute and Almond Tree Films Rwanda, and government agencies such as theWorkforce Development Authority, have already trained dozens of aspiring Rwandan filmmakers. The Ministry of Sports and Culture has also begun to establish a Film Commission. But more needs to be done.

As part of a research project for the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace), we spent almost three weeks in Rwanda, interviewing film industry workers, government officials, and film distributors to analyze the industry’s potential to create jobs and promote economic growth. Many hope that the industry could help Rwanda’s government and people create a new national identity and culture that challenges the automatic association between Rwanda and genocide. By exposing the world to a stable, modern, and hopeful Rwanda through film, international investment and tourism could be encouraged. However, four major obstacles stand in the way.

First, aspiring film workers need affordable, long-term training programs to gain technical skills and develop talents in editing, cinematography, sound, lighting, and related fields. Given the cost and limited availability of these courses, training is out of reach for most people. (For example, a three-month certificate course from Kwetu Film Institute costs 300,000 Rwandan francs, roughly $500, a significant sum in a county where the GDP per capita is $560).

To help with expenses, some short-term intensive training programs receive funding from the Rwandan government, as well as the U.S. State Department. But these offerings are inconsistent. Moreover, existing programs offer no more than crash courses that make it difficult for students to master the basics and build higher levels of expertise. Nor do schools and universities fill the gap. No Rwandan university offers film education as a two- or four-year degree.

Second, while technical training programs are essential, filmmakers also lack business skills and struggle to finance, produce, and distribute their films. Marketing, pre- and post-production, and finance are learned on-the-job, without much guidance. Curricula combining technical and business skills related to the film industry are needed.

Third, Rwanda lacks local film infrastructure. There exists no union or film commission to encourage collaboration or give guidance on legal issues, such as copyright laws, taxes, and national and international distribution. Vendor lists of the best sound, camera, or casting directors do not exist. Work is found through word of mouth, making the industry difficult to navigate for outsiders, especially foreign production companies hoping to hire Rwandan film crews.

Fourth, Rwandans have limited access to films made in their own country. While Rwandan filmmakers have some success reaching regional and international markets through film festivals and their personal networks, the local market remains untapped. Many filmmakers ascribe this to the lack of a local film culture. There is only one movie theater in Kigali, and it is forced to show popular soccer matches to stay afloat. A few more theaters are slated to open, but it is uncertain if they will generate enough revenue. “Going to the movies” is simply not a typical leisure activity in Rwanda. Distribution of Rwandan films through television is also minimal. Only 6 percent of Rwandans own a TV, and Rwanda’s only TV station, the government-run Rwanda TV (RTV), cannot afford to buy content from local filmmakers.

This lack of exposure contributes to an overall low respect for creative arts produced by Rwandans. Post-conflict reconstruction and development in the country has mostly focused on sectors related to science and technology. Arts education and funding has been small, if not nonexistent.

Film may not seem like a priority, and basic needs should still come first for those who lack them, but Rwanda’s government and private sector should support the film industry as a longer-term engine of development. Unlike other African countries, Rwanda has been unable to capitalize on the film industry’s potential to produce income and jobs. In order to achieve this, more frequent and higher-level technical training programs are needed alongside business courses tailored to the film industry. Vendor lists or registries of skilled workers should be created and maintained. Realizing the industry’s potential to boost Rwanda’s already-fast growth and changing international image will likely require a long-term investment, but it promises to be worthwhile.


Great news for SIFF and African films!

SIFF gets an amazing grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 

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Picture Locked!

Today marks a major milestone for us as we have now locked picture and are heading to LA to score the film!  It is a surreal feeling and we are so grateful to every one of you for your continued support!  We’ll keep you posted on our progress via facebook.  Thank you!

The Africa Channel

Don’t miss the Filmmakers series from The Africa Channel.  The series features filmmakers from around the world as they give insight into both the narrative and documentary stories they have created.

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