Niyoyita Roger has worked on several local film projects. (Moses Opobo)

Niyoyita Roger has worked on several local film projects. (Moses Opobo)

At the theater, his brief was to watch as many movies as possible, then select the best for screening. It was against this background that he decided to join the Art and Media Faculty at the National University of Rwanda in 2000, to build on this experience and passion. Today, he is a budding filmmaker with appearances in a handful of local films. Even with that, Niyoyita is far from content with the quality of production in the local music industry.

Where can one find you in Kigali?

I work at Ol Wonders, a communications agency based in Kicukiro. I had a project of producing a Sitcom which I pitched to the owner of Ol Wonders boss and he was like I would rather have you as an employee and we move together than just sponsor the project. The offer was good and I took it up.

We create content for television. At the moment we have one sitcom and one music television show. The sitcom is called, Agacube Barbershop and it is actually set in a barbershop. While Champ wa Mic is a hip-hop talent search competition that airs on TV10.

Why are you passionate about film?

I would say it was from that thing of selecting movies for screening that I developed this passion for film. We used to screen Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The one for Sundays had to be the big movie, because it is on Sundays that we always received the biggest attendance.

After university, I went to the Rwanda Cinema Center where I attended many workshops by filmmakers from Rwanda and from abroad. In 2008, I started working on my own projects.

I attended two courses at Maisha Film Lab and it?s after that point that I decided to get into film-making professionally.

What are some of the film projects you have worked on?

I worked on many projects while at the Rwanda Cinema Center but I won?t mention them because I wasn?t the main person behind them.

In 2000, I did one of the very first films in Rwanda called, Rugamba Izindi, a film produced by Karitas Uwizere, about domestic violence.

It received a lot of airplay on national TV. I did a few short films of my own before I joined Maisha Film Lab. At Maisha, I did a short film called Mutoni, which was shown at different film festivals in Rwanda and Burundi. I did a few documentaries for some NGOs and another short film titled The Other Side of the Street. I would say that they are projects I did out of passion.

With all the necessary logistics it demands, I haven?t reached the level of saying that I?m ready to jump into my own production. I don?t want to do these crappy films that people churn out these days.

I have scripts that I wrote a long time ago that I don?t want someone else to produce. I want to do it myself when the right time comes.

How would you describe the state of the film industry in Rwanda?

It?s confusing. We have two kinds of filmmakers; the ones that want to do the real art, where you take your time, think of an idea, develop a script, have people go through it, and work on this script before you get into production.

The other is the commercial filmmakers. You just wake up in the morning with like RW F 2 million, and say okay, let me get a few actors and shoot this movie. This is what is actually killing the industry and I?m not scared to say it. Film is acting and acting is not for everyone. Their target audience is not really composed of people who can buy. Those are films for people who just want to see something on their screen -the kind of movies that go for RWF1,000.

It?s not for people who will watch with a critical mind, people who will tell you to your face what they didn?t like about the film. If you have people criticizing your art, that is how you grow artistically.

The industry here needs those kinds of people who are harsh on filmmakers, who dare to tell them the truth. Even in Hollywood, they do it.

There are many good stories out there, but they may not be cinematic. People should try to differentiate the two. There is a story, and a way of making it cinematic. That?s why you will watch a silent movie and like it ?because it?s cinematic.

By Moses Opobo, The New Times

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