In September 2006, a media development project called the Rwanda Initiative brought me to Kigali to train print journalists. A nice mix of fate and shameless networking introduced me to a Rwandan CNN freelance videographer named Raymond Kalisa who, for a number of years, had been working on a proposal to train aspiring filmmakers in the neighbouring country of Burundi. I offered a practical approach, a collaboration was born, and eight months later, I’m back in Africa with a few fellow Canadian filmmakers Bridget Farr and Sabrina Guerrieri to try and make things happen.

 

Our vision is that the Burundi Film Centre (BFC) develop as a three phase, gateway proposal to the development of Burundi as a film and video-producing nation; to its product, talent and ultimately to the country as a location for producing foreign films. Burundi is a nation emerging from a war-time crisis and entering a new era of cultural understanding, tolerance and education. The absence of a developed media has crippled the nation’s ability to operate as a proper democracy and exposed the need for professional journalism and artistic expression through audio-visual storytelling. The BFC is a unique opportunity for Burundian citizens to learn essential 21st century mass communication skills from Canadian filmmakers and documentarians, while engaging those same media experts in African issues.

 

The first phase of the project takes Burundi’s youth and, through Canadian guidance, trains them in media literacy and media practices. Small, collaborative workshops designed between Canadian and African videographers will run the gamut of teaching youth to write, shoot and edit documentary and fiction videos. The second phase will take the videos created by the youth in a traveling film festival that will expose them to Burundi’s population. Partnerships with RTNB (Burundi’s only domestic television station), established African film festivals and Canadian educational partners (such as the National Film Board of Canada and World Inter-Action Mondiale will ensure that the films receive maximum exposure both at home and abroad. The third phase, should multiple rounds of the first and second phase prove successful, is the establishment of a film office to attract foreign productions to shoot in Burundi, employing local trainees as part of their technical crew.

 

The pilot-project launch of the BFC will begin June 6, 2007 and culminate with the traveling film festival from July 21 -28, 2007.