Acclaimed French filmmaker Eric Barbier, 58, is in Kigali, Rwanda, shooting the film adaptation of Petit Pays (Small Country), a book by Rwandan-French singer-songwriter, rapper and author Gael Faye.
This is a biopic of Faye’s recollection of his childhood, growing up during the civil war in Burundi in 1993 and the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi across the border. The story revolves around a group of five boys aged between 11 and 14, growing up in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.
The film's narrator is one of the boys, known as Gabriel or Gaby, who is also the film’s protagonist, born in Bujumbura to a Rwandan mother and French father just like Faye.
Shooting commenced on January 14, produced by Jerico and Super 8 productions and co-produced by Pathe Films and France 2 Cinema.
Petit Pays will be shot for eight weeks in Kigali and Rubavu, where the Burundian scenes of the movie will be acted. It is scheduled to be released later in the year. Barbier was in Rwanda last September to cast for the film, and the auditions, though kept quiet, were held in various schools around Kigali in search of child actors.
Gaye's book, Petit Pays, is written in French. It was published in August 2016 and was well received in literary circles, winning the First French Novel Prize 2016, the 2016 Goncourt High School Student’s Prize and the France Culture-Telerama Student novel 2016. It was later translated into 35 languages.
Barbier learnt of the book from his daughter and was so moved by the story that he decided to depict it in film. He first visited Rwanda in 2017 for a familiarisation tour ahead of the project and returned last year for casting.
“This is the first fiction story about the genocide, and I used to think it was impossible to do fiction about the genocide, but Faye is very clever. He is talking about his mother, who goes to see her family in Rwanda at the end of the genocide and is devastated. It is a very personal story,” Barbier said.
The movie will feature French actors Jean Paul Rouve, Djibril Vancappenolle and Dayla de Medina.
Barbier is known for his films, Le Braiser (1991), The Last Diamond (2014) and Promise at Dawn (2017). This will be his first project in East Africa after having previously worked in North Africa and South Africa.