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Rwandan filmmaker scoops an award at 2013 SVAFF



Gilbert Ndahayo, a US based Rwandan filmmaker scooped an award this week end at 2013 Silicon Valley African Film Festival (SVAFF). Ndahayo won the “Best Documentary Film Award” for his second documentary film “The Rwandan Night” which had its world premiere at the annual film festival that was organized from October 11th to 13th, 2013. “I am delighted for the world premiere of my second documentary feature and it is an honor for me to fly high the Rwandan flag in one the world’s famous African film festival”, said the Rwandan filmmaker.

The Silicon Valley African Film Festival is presented by Oriki Theatre at Community School of Music and Arts. The 2013 SVAFF opened on Friday, October 11 at 5:30pm with a reception and red carpet, followed by a parade of flags of the countries represented in the festival and a screening of the opening night film – the 2013 Cannes Vulcan Award winning film “GriGris” from Chad.

Thirty-two films from Africa were screened among them three from Rwanda.  The latter are “Chora Chora” that was directed by Richard Mugwaneza, Imbabazi – The pardon directed by Joel Karekezi and The Rwandan Night by Gilbert Ndahayo. Saturday October 12th, 2013 the festival was dominated by Rwandan cinema as the three films by Rwandan filmmakers were all scheduled to screen.

The event was marked by the presence of Ms Yvette Rugasaguhunga,the second counselor of the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington D.C. “She had come to grace the film festival and support the films from Rwanda” said Gilbert. The presence of a Rwandan official was highly regarded by the festival organizers, which prompt them to award the Rwandan Embassy a trophy in recognition for supporting the Film Festival.

Ms Yvette commended the efforts of SVAFF by bringing the true story of Africa to Silicon Valley. She was also a panelist in the forum “The African Women in Technology – a future of promise!”, organized on the sideline of the film festival. “It is no coincidence that women empowerment and technology are some of the key drivers of Rwanda’s political and socio-economical development,” noted the counselor of the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington D.C.

Gilbert Ndahayo had two test screenings this year during the genocide commemoration events in Zurich (Switzerland) and Maine (USA) this spring. “I felt I can give it a shot and submit my film in 2013 SVAFF,” noted the Rwandan filmmaker. At Bates College this February, Professor Alexandre Dauge-Roth remarked, “Gilbert’s central part of the documentary is about a survivor who testifies against the genocide; and according to the American standards of film consumption, it can be called a long moment.” Gilbert Ndahayo explained that he wanted to put the chronology of the genocide on the screen.

The 2013 Awards Winners were in seven categories among them the2013 SVAFF Africa Reel Award Winner Newton Aduaka (Nigeria), 2013 Emerging Filmmaker Award for Sephora Woldu  (Eritrea), 2013 Emerging Filmmaker Award for Chimwemwe Mkwezalamba (Malawi ), Narrative Feature Film Award Shemu Joyah (Malawi), Narrative Short Film Award for Tim Huebschle  (Namibia), Documentary Short Film Award for Kurt Orderson (South Africa) and Documentary Feature Film Award for Gilbert Ndahayo (Rwanda).


“The Rwandan Night” is a 97-min ethno-documentary that features the haunting memories of the oldest survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Both poetic and moving, Ndahayo’s use of original Rwandan music of commemoration, produces a vivid cinematic rendering of this unique voice forcefully testifying to the long ordeal of his people during so many decades before April 1994.

“This happens to be the first time I work with fellow Rwandan artists. For instance the opening music ‘Nibarize’ (Tell Me) draws out of melodic whispering style which has long disappeared in Rwanda, but still in use in Burundi by ‘Inanga’ players (string instrument)” confessed the filmmaker in a statement issued at the release of his film.

As African cinema is being appreciated overseas, there is a growing discussion on the creation of the East African Film Commission. The debate is championed by the Zanzibar International Film Festival in collaboration  with filmmakers from East Africa and the diaspora. It is still too early to talk more about the commission but the body will help to promote East African cinematic culture.


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