A month to go before we film and I am meeting, once again, a senior member of the Rwandan government. Key to the success of the filming was the support of the Rwandan government. I have been fortunate to work with a brilliant journalist based in Kigali, Helen Vesperini, who introduced me to key ministers. One was particularly highly placed. Every once in a while I would meet to update him. He speaks quietly, his elongated body clad in an immaculate suit seems to almost drool over the chair. We meet regularly and publicly. It’s an enjoyable experience. He is fascinating and excellent company. And cool with it. Even the ring tone on his phone is cool – it chirrups like a distant cicada. If he takes the call his voice will disappear into a deathly whisper – probably Mtwame, the Big Chief – President Kagame. Rwanda’s power extends far beyond its relative size – such is the respect with which it is held throughout Africa for its recovery since 1994 – and this man is at the heart of many decisions.
We have become friends. God knows what he finds interesting in me. We talk about Rwanda, our wives and children, what we would do if we were not doing our jobs – normal stuff. He is our chief supporter for the film. There are some here that would rather we were not here revisiting an episode that they want to forget because they believe Rwanda must move on. My friend sees the film differently – a means of reminding the West of what happened and ensuring that the story remains in the present – a potential way to reconcile Hutu and Tutsi.
It’s a view that excites plenty of expatriate opinion on the weekends at the Umubano Hotel. Amid the “thwock” of tennis balls and the screaming chatter of small children at the pool, westerners recline on sun loungers and discuss the best way forward for Rwanda. Some think that revisiting the past and doing away with ethnic labels – Tutsi and Hutu – won’t lead to a natural, organic harmony between the two ethnic groups. But I’m not so sure. Don’t forget that nearly 30% of Rwanda had always intermarried and I trust Kagame and his ideas much more than some western bureaucrat out on a two year posting equipped with a crumpled mission statement and a badly written university thesis entitled Aid and Poverty – the Third World Paradigm.
Broiled by the long afternoon heat, Rwanda settles into luminous dusk. The hills stretch out, overlapping each other, turn milky and then, like a door shutting on a closet, Rwanda snaps into darkness.
-David Belton (Producer)