5 Questions for a Filmmaker–Kivu Ruhorahoza

Kivu Ruhorahoza, from Rwanda, made two award-winning short films (Confession and Lost in the South) before rising to fame with his first feature Grey Matter in 2011. The film – a unique take on the Rwandan genocide – has screened at festivals across the globe and won the mainly self-taught director the Jury Special Mention at Tribeca Film Festival for his ‘audacious and experimental approach,’ and a host of other awards. Sundance Institute announced earlier this month that Ruhorahoza’s second film, Things of the Aimless Wanderer (which explores a forever relevant theme; the relationship between Westerners and Africans in Africa) has been selected for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Film section.

1) What is your first film memory?

I’m not sure I can trust my memory on this, but it’s definitely a Bollywood-movie. One of the films I remember, not just for the songs and the pretty women but the plot as well, is Amar Akbar Anthony – a film about three orphans raised by three families; one Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim. I also remember Andha Kanoon because of the film’s hero – or anti-hero rather – Vijay Kumar, played by Rajinikanth. I wanted to be cool, angry and stylish like him.

Watching movies was a collective experience when I was a kid. There were only two TV sets on my street. Me and tens of friends would watch movies either at the one neighbour’s house or the other’s. Even if we didn’t understand the language, we would still laugh, cry and sing along.

2) Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?

Cinema, as an art form, is complete. It steals from photography, dance, music, literature, theatre, sculpture. A beautiful film watched in the right conditions can be quite a life-changing experience. It was after watching Roger Gnoan M’bala’s Fespaco-winner Au Nom du Christ when I was fifteen, and Cedric Kahn’s L’Ennui at sixteen, that I revised my plans of becoming a novelist.

3) Which film do you wish you had made?

Sans Soleil by Chris Marker, the film is a good example of the work of a filmmaker who has reached maturity and an artist who is truly free. Great films are first and foremost cinematic objects, but also political and philosophical statements. Sans Soleil is a masterpiece from a technical point of view; with its soundscape, the editing and the narration, it’s as close to cinematic perfection as it gets. It’s also an amazing statement on memory that I identify with.

When I was a teenager I often dreamt of travelling. I wanted to live a nomadic life and I was lucky enough to end up doing so. I’ve visited many strange places and met a lot of strange people. I prefer not to take photos during my travels so all that remains of those early travels are the memories in my head, which consists of images as well as smells, sounds and lights. Some memories have faded away of course, and often my brains starts playing tricks on me by mixing together components of different experiences into new ones; like a memory I have of sipping Vodka in Warsaw or Rio while listening to electronic music. I don’t know if it happened, but I like it so it doesn’t really matter.

4) Name one of the films on your top-5 list and the reason why it is there.

Werckmeister Harmonies by Béla Tarr. For the cinematography, the directing, the sound design, the acting. The film is so carefully choreographed and the whole thing just seems like it was crafted by a superior intelligence! I know it sound idiotic but watch it and you’ll understand. The film also has the best Steadicam shot in the history.

5) Ask yourself any question you think I should have asked and answer it.

Name a forgotten film that deserves to be unearthed.

The House of Hunger by South African filmmaker Chris Austin. It’s great cinematically and one of the best entry points to Dambudzo Marechera’s troubled world.

Katarina Hedrén

Katarina Hedrén, based in Johannesburg, writes about film for Africa is a Country.

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