With the gradual advancement in local film production, Yuhi Amuri, 28, is marking his territory as a legend in the industry. To close followers of Rwandan film, Amuri’s works like Ishaba his first film to his latest entitled A Taste of Our Land, bring an eye and mind-grabbing mood, which cements him as one of the names to watch in local film industry.
“It was at the university where I started developing interests in film, but in a more critical way,” he said adding that: “I had thought of stories visually, as I had written them, then I further opted for film as a more interesting medium of sharing my stories,” he recalls.
Following a workshop with the Kwetu Film Institute, Amuri produced Ishaba in 2015. This short film was a breakthrough, hence touring and being featured in Luxor African Film Festival (Egypt), Amir International film festival (France), then later in Canada.
The same film won the best short film award category at the Rwanda Film Festival in 2016. This was followed by Akarwa and Kazungu, both short films, which saw him set pace into film making.
Amuri further made a stride in feature film making, an experience he doesn’t regret, “Short films are their art form,” he states. With most audiences and aspiring filmmakers thinking about how short films are an exercise towards feature films, Amuri sees otherwise, “The experience from short films was great, but taping into features was another uniquely different shift,” he added.
But the filmmaking process is something Amuri finds different inexperience, “It’s like trying to tell stories, but as well as discovering myself,” he states.
The 84 minutes film, in English, directed by him is set in an unidentified African country. A taste Of Our Land is a film depicting the greed of the current Chinese influence in African countries, and follows Yohani, an old African man’s day to day struggle to provide for his pregnant wife, who stumbles upon a piece of gold in a mine belonging to a cruel Chinese. Desperate, he runs away to sell it for $100, but when he realises its real value, he becomes as obsessed with it as the Chinese mine owner who will stop at nothing to get it back.
The film saw its debut in February 2020, at the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angles, where it scooped the Best First Narrative Feature Film Award. The film has also been featured at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival. With this being his first independent and self-funded project worth $12,000, producing A Taste of Our Land was met with another unsighted challenging experience.
Having been scheduled for several premieres across international festivals, which didn’t happen as the festival programs were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With his craft in writing dating way back to secondary school, the selfmade film maker’s drive for story-telling comes from somewhere, “I feel I have the contemporary African stories, just like Ousmane Sembene did,” he explains, “It feels like a duty I have to fulfil for the generation today and tomorrow to learn from,” he adds.
But the profession of African filmmaking is one that lately comes with challenges, “People don’t enjoy African films,” he states, “Most who do, only do so after the films make it to and through international festivals, after a western approval,” he added.