March 20th 2004
I am in Rwanda with Michael Caton-Jones, our director. We are here to see if we can shoot the film in Kigali. The plan is to do better than that – to make the film at the Ecole Technique Officielle – the school where the massacre took place. We start to meet Rwandans who had survived the massacre. First – Karasira Venuste – introduced to me by my researcher, Geoffrey Mutagoma. It was a terrible story of Rwandans coming to the school in the early hours of 7th April because, with UN troops stationed at the school, they believed they were safe, protected. But then, five days later, the UN left and the Rwandans were abandoned. Within hours of the UN leaving most of the 2,500 people who had sought refuge at the school had been killed.
Karasira tells the story with such honesty and dignity. He was one of the lucky ones – most of his family had survived. He had lost an arm when a grenade exploded near him and had been miraculously rescued by soldiers from the predominantly Tutsi rebel army, the RPF. Shining through the story was a sense of terrible betrayal he felt. How could the West, knowing what they knew was happening, leave Rwanda to its fate? Michael and I sat there, transfixed.
Afterwards as we walked round the school, Michael is murmuring to himself – his big frame getting all agitated. He can see it now – not just a script but a place and the filmmaker’s instincts are starting to manifest themselves in what he says. The school is a natural film set – not much has changed since 1994. Old engineering workshops still carried the scars – bullet holes in the walls, smashed furniture. Michael is an extraordinary guy – a miner’s son from West Lothian who left school at 15 and became a top Hollywood director. I can see that he has reached a moment of conclusion: we have to make the film and we have to make it here – in Rwanda, at this school. And we have to work with people like Karasira – to get their story out to a wider audience. “We just need to get these money men to understand that we’re making this film and there’s nothing they can do about it,” he says.
-David Belton (Producer)