17. HILLYWOOD RWANDA
About thirty minutes out of Nyungwe Forest the bright lights of Cyangugu (and the Congo city of Bukavu just across Lake Kivu) appeared and soon we were on the main street looking for a hotel. The first one we stopped at was full and so our driver - who knows his way around - took us to another on the outskirts of town. It was full too but the one across the road had vacancies and we took two rooms there. It was called HOME ST FRANCOIS and was managed by extremely hospitable nuns. After we were comfortably settled in our rooms we went to the dining room for supper.
Finally we experienced homemade Rwandan food. There was pureed soup as an entree, and braised meat and gravy, roasted potatoes, julienned carrots and BEANS. Kevin and Oliver dug in as though they hadn't eaten for days, and it really was hearty. For dessert there was cheese, bananas, apples and oranges.
After supper - there being nowhere to go within walking distance (and our driver not returning until tomorrow morning at nine) - we went to our rooms and curled up with books - me with LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS, Kevin with MURAMBI THE BOOK OF BONES and Oliver with a Rwandan magazine he'd chosen at the bookstore in Kigali.
The next morning I was interrupted in my reading by the sound of much activity outside the window. I went to investigate and discovered that the street in front our hotel had been turned into a movie set:
I took photos of the scene through the red metal gate (seen above). It took several "takes" for the director to get it right, by which time Kevin and Oliver had joined our group of hotel-patron onlookers. The street was blocked off to traffic until a break in the action during which time we walked to where our driver was parked (lugging our luggage like fellow-refugees).
I wondered what movie this would be, but suspected it would have something to do with the French as actors wearing their uniforms and tell-tale red berets were manning the jeeps and guns. I thought of "Operation Turquoise" which I describe in MOURNING IN MURAMBI and about which I'd bought the new book SILENT ACCOMPLICE in Kigali.
Later, when we got back to Canada, I read an on-line article in the New Times newspaper saying they were making a movie in Rwanda called "Operation Turquoise" and one of the locations was in Cyangugu, so that must have been what we saw there. I can hardly wait to see the finished production, and hope they don't cut our Cyangugu Motel scene.
Coincidently, I was in Rwanda last year when they were filming SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL and will be looking forward to seeing that movie too. So far my favourite Rwanda movie is SOMETIMES IN APRIL.
It seems EVERYONE is making movies about Rwanda these days. And lately they're being filmed IN Rwanda which is great. There's "Hollywood" in America and "Bollywood" in India and now "Hillywood" in the Land of a Thousand Hills as described in a BBC article Rwandans flock to "Hillywood" films.
Below is that article describing the Cyangugu scene we saw in Cyangugu:
French shoot movie on Genocide
by Lilian Nakayima, New Times, Jun 25, 2007
As we all live to remember the innocent Tutsi and moderate Hutu massacres of the 1994 Genocide, lots of documentaries and movies have come up mimicking the brutal acts that rocked Rwanda under the hands of Juvenal Habyarimana. Amongst the many films done about the Rwandan Genocide --- like Shooting dogs, Sometimes in April --- only a few of them have been shot in the country. All their stories talk about Genocide but none has ever implicated the French military although lots of contradictions and wrangles have taken place between Rwanda and France as countries in line to the Genocide.
No single person had ever come up with a film showing how the French reportedly contributed to the killings of over one million Tutsis.
Now 'OPERATION TURQUOISE' is a film set to tell the world about France’s involvement in the 1994 Genocide. The film is directed by Alain Tasma, a prominent movie director and International Emmy Award winner of 2006 in New York (the equivalent of the Oscars for television) for best TV movie. The producers, Mwana Productions in Rwanda and Cipango in France, have invested over Frw 1-billion to see this movie a success in both countries.
The movie is dubbed 'Operation Turquoise' which was the name of the humanitarian mission that was sent by France between June 22 and August 21, 1994. This film stresses the point that the whole humanitarian mission was diverted when the French soldiers ended up protecting the killers instead of the ones who were being killed. Many of former government officials, officers and Interahamwe militiamen used the French army in western Rwanda as a shield to protect them from RPF and later managed to escape.
The shooting will take 30 days in Rwanda and two in France. The film crew (comprising of 50 French nationals and other actors) is shooting in the three regions that were occupied by the French army under Operation Turquoise, which are Cyangugu, Kibuye and Butare. Tasma insisted on shooting not only in Rwanda but also in the very real locations where this horrific tragedy happened. Last Saturday the crew wrapped up the shooting in Bisesero hills around Kibuye and was due to head to Butare thereafter for two weeks.
The Rwandese technical crew has 70 people with experienced professionals who have worked on a number of international productions before. There are numerous actors and a large number of local extras. On Friday there were more than 250 people working on the set.
The producers insist that this is an independent movie that is trying to reveal the truth about what happened in 1994.
The film is privately funded by the producers and private French pay-tv channel, Canal Plus. Rwandan government officials have welcomed the project by providing help and allowing the crew to freely shoot in anywhere in the country. Director Tasma and script-writer Gilles Taurand were met by President Kagame last December.
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BISESERO HILL HAUNTS CONGO and RWANDA FRENCH TURQUOISE FILM
Reader Ward played a role in the Rwanda genocide movie "Operation Turquoise"
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