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Rwanda: Lisa Fruchtman - documentary about Rwanda


At the same time as did you prime hear about the amount-women drumming circle in Rwanda and why did it pique your interest?

Lisa Fruchtman:It amount began with Rwandan playwright Odile“Kiki”Katese, who in 2005 founded the prime women's drum troupe in Rwanda - breaking the taboo against women drumming and bringing together women from both sides of the genocide.

Invited to the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in 2009, Kiki met Jennie Dundas, an actor and co-founder (with Alexis Miesen) of Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream. At the same time as Kiki asked them approaching to Rwanda to help the drummers open the country’s prime local ice cream shop, they thought of amount the reasons they should say no. But instead, they said yes.

At the same time as we heard this story, we instantly wanted to know additional about this unlikely but moving set of elements unfolding half a world away. Within a few months we were on a plane to Rwanda for the prime time... and our prime shoot.

How did you decide to make a documentary about these women?

What we knew of Rwanda was the devastation of 1994 Genocide – 800,000 minority Tutsis killed in one hundred days, a lot of by those they knew, neighbors and friends. How, we asked ourselves, was it possible for Rwandans to move forward from that? And how did drumming and ice cream fit in?

At the same time as we landed in Rwanda, we saw a country of contrasts - a beautiful land that is as well an impoverished one: a country where the exciting strides of economic development are coupled with trauma and devastating sadness. The mandate of the government is for Hutus and Tutsis to rebuild the country together, from presently on could this really be done without somehow rebuilding the spirits which were shattered?

The genocide says Kiki, left a lot of Rwandans “broken, dead inside”. People are not like roads and buildings” she adds “How do we rebuild a human being"?

Both the drumming and ice cream projects embody the idea that Rwandans need not only the means to survive, but as well the means to live...ways to reconnect with joy, hope and formerly unimagined possibilities.

Over the course of a year and a half we returned to Rwanda four times - each time filming an extra facet of the story.

Following the women together in rehearsal and performance, we experienced the beauty and transformative power of their drumming. We gathered their stories and filmed their emergence as budding entrepreneurs, their struggles to build their cooperative, their delight as they learn to make and taste ice cream for the prime time.

At the same time as the shop finally opens, the sign read:

Inzozi Nziza (Sweet Dreams) “ coffee, ice cream, dreams”.

They always knew they were building additional than a business.

What was the hardest part about producing this film?

We decided to get on a plane for Rwanda, not knowing really what we would find there. At the same time as we arrived, the drummers were rehearsing and instantly we had to figure out how to shoot 65 drummers under a blazing hot sun and a thunderous wall of sound.

Over the course of a year and a half, the additional daunting challenge was to get to know them, to gain their trust and to gently uncover the painful stories underneath the joy and resilience that we found there.

Each year in April, the country commits a month to mourning in memory of the genocide. It is such a time of trauma in the country, we waited a full year formerly filming during that period. Even again it was extremely challenging, both logistically and emotionally. As far as we know, we are the prime to ever document the extraordinary process that goes on during this time.

Did anything surprise you along the way?

As we did the interviews, we realized something amazing. The women who were pouring their heart and soul into creating this project had at no time tasted ice cream. Like most Rwandans, they didn’t actually know what it was. But what they did know was that their lives had been transformed by the drum group in ways they could at no time have imagined formerly. And they presently had the confidence to go on an extra journey, believing it could change their lives, and even the country, for the better.

What do you want the audience to take away from the film?

We see Sweet Dreams as a catalyst and magnifier. While it is not a specific “call to action” as a lot of documentaries are, we feel it can move people to action.

Kiki chose to bring the women together in ways that were both healing and empowering. But it is notable that she did not start a traditional dance group or a basket weaving business. She introduced two concepts that were completely new, and therefore disruptive in the majority positive sense.

The connection for her was that at the same time as you try really new things - it breaks open the box, creates a new paradigm. One new idea leads to an extra and again an extra and that is how horizons are broadened and societies change.

So Sweet Dreams is really about having the courage to dream, to imagine new ways of living.

Amount of the people here at the Skoll conference are interested in making a difference – a large difference – in the world. So there is a concern about scalability and I want to speak to that.

By making Sweet Dreams, we wanted to cast a light on a visionary grass roots initiative, It is a project of multiple goals - healing, reconciliation, women’s social and financial empowerment - but it is even larger than that. And so the aim of the film is obviously not to generate additional drum troupes or additional ice cream shops. It is to demonstrate the power of thinking outside the box – and of the power of seemingly small projects to generate large change. Each situation demands its own creative thinking, but the film shows what can be done even in the majority difficult circumstances and inspires people to move forward in their own way.

We are planning to bring the film back to Africa - Rwanda, Burundi and Congo specifically - traveling with the drummers and holding workshops.

But the film is as well showing in various settings around the world. Recently at a Women’s Convocation in Romania, it was shown to 500 women from 20 nations. Part the a lot of responses we received:

“This was not only a film about women in Africa, it was a film about us, amount of us. I saw what those women did, and I know in our own ways, we will do that too. Thank you so much for bringing it to us.”

There is really nothing additional powerful than stories in changing the way we feel and from presently on act…. Whether “we” are people in developing or post conflict nations – or are Westerners trying to figure out impactful ways of bringing about change.

The film has by presently generated attention for these remarkable Rwandan women. They received the prestigious 2012 Common Ground Award (completed recipients include Desmond Tutu, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Jimmy Carter) and presently they are here at the Skoll World Forum.

Sweet Dreams has screened at the United Nations and in film festivals around the world. We have been amazed and gratified at the response it has received so far and want to work with outreach partners to make sure it has the continued impact we know it can have.

If the film breaks down stereotypes, combats hopelessness, sparks conversation about radically new possibilities, inspires people to action in their own culturally specific way – and we think it does amount of these things - again we have done our job.                

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