Local film industry still hard for women

Monday September 24 2018

Film makers

Young filmmakers at this year’s Rwanda Film Festival in Kigali. PHOTO | ANDREW I KAZIBWE 

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The local film industry has been steadily growing, but women’s participation in film is still unsatisfactory.

Recently, a few female directors and actresses have stood out, yet the sector continues to prove shaky for most.

The Rwanda Film Festival returned on September 15 and it is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of local and global films.

The week-long festival, which is in its 13th edition, seeks to recognise women in film, through workshops to showcase the few women filmmakers who will share their experiences with aspiring female directors.

“It’s a male-dominated industry and we encourage young women to join in,” said Eric Kabera, a renowned filmmaker and founder of Kwetu Film Institute.

Low women participation in films has been witnessed over the years though initiatives like the Cinema workshops, started four years ago by the Rwanda Median Project in partnership with the Kwetu Film Institute, and this worries organisers,

“Most of the applications we receive are from men, so we asked Mr Kabera to reach out to more participants through Kwetu Film Institute,” said Angelika Stute, a Rwanda Media Project administrator.

Ms Stute said only Clemantine Dusabijambo, Shenge Ndimbira and Kantarama Gahigiri are among the few women who have grown into remarkable filmmakers through the workshops.

“If parents and society aren’t supportive, then these trainings are in vain,” said Kantarama Gahigiri, a filmmaker and curator, who has held film workshops in the country since 2015.

Gahigiri added that besides the low turn out of women for the film workshops other factors hamper their involvement such as lack of funding and resources for their projects.

Generally, there is low participation of women in the arts and this is reflected in the film industry.

Mr Kabera said more women need to embrace film as an art.

Michelle Umutoni, an actress whose film career kicked off in 2016, said women have limited opportunities in the film industry compared with men.

She refuted allegations that society still dictates or suppresses women from taking part in art.

“This used to happen, but today women are more expressive about what they want to pursue,” she said.

Hope Azeza, an experienced actress, theatre curator and director, said women’s participation in film is gradually increasing.

“Times have changed and women ought to follow their passion,” she said.