Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mama Rwanda: Bright Inspiration Out of the Darkness of War

I am going to the Washington D.C. premiere of the movie MAMA RWANDA and supporting my friend Laura Waters Hinson. Like a good friend, I am going to be totally real and honest about what I think about the movie. What else are friends for? Plus, even in my writing as in person, I am the same. I am going to tell you exactly what I think! 

About MAMA RWANDA (from Mama Rwanda's press kit) 
"It examines a new generation of women in post-genocide Rwanda whose passion for entrepreneurship is transforming their nation into one of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world. This short documentary interweaves the stories of two women: Drocella, a village wife, and Christine, a city widow, as they trade subsistence living for a life in business, challenging Western stereotypes of the “African woman,” and highlighting the role of education in empowering women to overcome poverty. A universal, globally relevant tale, Mama Rwanda is a deeply cinematic portrait of two mothers on a journey to build peace through prosperity."

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What I like: 
*A GREAT conversation starter on not just the Rwandan Circle of Life (meaning that what comes around goes around and women are back in power even though struggling to get back everything they lost) but on the GLOBAL rights women are fighting for everywhere!
* 64% women in the Rwandan Parliament-- how is that super cool? They went from a very war torn patriotic society to a nation that supported women more than they have ever before. And you know what that did the economy? They, being Rwanda, are one of the fastest growing economies... in the world! 
* This film not only represents a mama. It represents a mama who has lost... everything. Not one women. But two. Not two women but a nation. Not even a nation, no, the world! The world has lost. The world is regaining. Slowly. 
* Drocella, who was starting a co op for farming tomatoes, brought together her community. After trying to secure a loan for it, she didn't give up after not getting the loan. She used the small amount of money to co op was able to have to purchase the seeds directly. 
* Christine, who has five children, living in the city, lost her husband. She ends up not only starting her own business making banana wine but also trying to run for office. She lost the first round but is going back with intentions to win next time. She graduates college, supports all her children, works hard and loves her community deeply. 
* Both these women went against all odds and came out so much better- they are an amazing inspiration to women -- not just Rwandan women, but women all over the world. 
* The post screening panel was a great way to pick up where the movie left off and continue to the talk. It was interactive and you can see the hope that the Rwandan women are bringing to their country and to the world. 
* This is a film that I feel women of any and all countries to see because it shows them that even though there is pain, loss, and struggle, that there is a way up and there is hope. They are that hope. 

What I didn't like:
* The wording that comes up on the screen doesn't stay as long as it should. I felt especially when mentioning the genocide the Rwandans experienced, keeping it even a second or two longer would have been better. Both on a cinematography level but also on the socio-cultural level of implanting on the hearts of the audience more how horrible this tragedy was.
* I think the movie was too short-- but that could be because I like it so much. I think it has a lot to offer. 
* Some transitions were off
* I would have loved to hear from more women and mums about their stories as well. I think three would have been the perfect balance. But I also like the number three. Ha ha. I think that showing more women in the story would have even driven home more the point that they are so community minded and supporting of each other. Like Laura said on the panel, that SO many women wanted to tell their story because they felt the world turned on them and turned off the light essentially when the genocide happened and they wanted to show that. They wanted to show how that didn't break them, how it forced them as women to come out of nothing to do something. Something for themselves, something for their kids (some born out of rape during the genocide), something for their community and nation. How amazingly powerful is that? 

Mama Rwanda: Bright Inspiration Out of the Darkness of War, movie review, Mama Rwanda, Rwandan Genocide, Hope, Inspiration, Laura Waters Hinson, Akilah Insitute for Women, Sakina Usengimana, HeForShe, The Next Generation Fund, Jeni Klugman, Mathilde Mukantabana, Karen Sherman, Barbara Klein, Washington DC, movie premiere, change for women,  Via Bella

THE ENTREPRENEURS (from Mama Rwanda's Press Kit)
Drocella Mama Rwanda opens with Drocella, a mother of five who has founded an association of reconciled genocide survivors and ex-perpetrators in a bold plan to build an agricultural cooperative. In a village where saving money is an alien concept, will Drocella convince her peers to invest their meager incomes today for the promise of a better tomorrow? Or will old mindsets prevent her from building a business that could liberate her—and her village—from extreme poverty? The film follows Drocella as she rallies her peers to save 33 cents per person each week with the hope of obtaining the village’s first-ever community loan. The goal? To buy a farm where former genocide enemies work side-by-side.

Christine Christine is a banana wine executive. Her meteoric rise as a business leader not only helped lift her family out of poverty, but also created jobs for dozens of people in her community. Still grappling with her husband‘s death, Christine struggles to balance her new found success as a rising entrepreneur with the demands of being a widow with five children. Can Christine bear her calling as a business leader and a single mother? The film tracks Christine as she navigates becoming a corporate CEO with her commitment to her children and her education–a life that defies global stereotypes of the “African woman.”

Mama Rwanda: Bright Inspiration Out of the Darkness of War, movie review, Mama Rwanda, Rwandan Genocide, Hope, Inspiration, Laura Waters Hinson, Akilah Insitute for Women, Sakina Usengimana, HeForShe, The Next Generation Fund, Jeni Klugman, Mathilde Mukantabana, Karen Sherman, Barbara Klein, Washington DC, movie premiere, change for women,

Post-screening panel to include:
Barbara Klein, NPR correspondent
Mukuntabanda, Rwandan Ambassador
Laura Waters Hinson, Filmmaker
Karen Sherman, Founder of the Akilah Institute for Women
Jeni Klugman, Harvard Kennedy School Fellow 
Sakina Usengemana, Akilah student entrepreneur

Some AMAZING quotes from the panelists during the post-screening discussion:

Mukuntabanda, Rwandan Ambassador
"Women have agency. Women have more." 
"Genocide victimizes women more than anyone (in Rwanda)." 
" Reconilitation of close nature: ie: children born of rape." 
"Women for the first time are able to inherit and get citizenship."

Sakina Usengemana, Akilah student entrepreneur
Had to fit female stereotypes to be able to get an education.
"I studied at Akilah Institute for entrepreneurship to help community and family"
"I learned how to fund it at every stop of the way."
"What my mother couldn't do, I can!"

Jeni Klugman, Harvard Kennedy School Fellow 
"26% GPD come from women and that needs to grow."
"Women's rights are human rights."

Karen Sherman, Founder of the Akilah Institute for Women
"If you have gotten an education you have only gone half way"

I got to meet Sakina in person and she is absolutely a sweetheart. I saw what she did and what she is creating first hand. She is the founder of Ihogoza Design and I hope to see her online and see more of her stuff! Wishing her nothing but the best! 

The post-screening panel was super helpful in the circle of what I consider the meaning behind the film-- an agent to get the real work and the real talk going about how to support these women and also how to be inspired by them. 

Interview with the Film Maker- Laura Hinson (Mama Rwanda Press Kit)

1. Why do you want to make this film? 
After making my previous films As We Forgive and Dog Days, I was moved by the power of entrepreneurship to shape people’s lives and affect communities for the better. I initially went to Rwanda to film an NGO-style informational documentary, but I was so inspired by the stories of the Rwandan working mothers who were starting businesses while caring for their families and rebuilding their nation. It blew me away, and I knew this film had to be about them. I wanted to make a documentary that would break down stereotypes of these women, to show the complexity of their lives, and to convey their personal struggles to love their children well while also becoming entrepreneurs.

2. Was it difficult to shoot in Rwanda? How long were you there? 
I’ve shot quite a bit in Rwanda in the past, so all the difficulties were not a surprise! Shooting in remote areas without access to electricity is always a challenge, but I enjoy setting up interviews using only available light. The shoot for Mama Rwanda was one month, with another follow-up shoot three years later that lasted about four days. I love Rwanda so much—the people, the beauty, the weather—it doesn’t feel hard to shoot there. More like a really fun challenge.

3. Do you still keep in contact with Christine and Drocella?
 I do still keep up with Christine and Drocella, every now and then, mostly through our translator and fixer whose name is Benjamin. Also, Christine is now on email, so I can email her—and her English has profoundly improved in the last five years, so we can communicate directly to each other! I am excited to go back and show them the film one day soon.

4. What’s your favorite part of this film? What did you find most inspiring? 
Some of my favorite parts of the film are the intimate moments of Christine with her children, late at night after she’s come home from a long day at work. These scenes evoke the underlying tension she feels over her work/life balance, and it takes such an emotional toll on her. Working moms in the West think a lot about “having it all” but it’s often from a position of privilege. For women like Christine, it’s about survival. As a widow with five children, she has no choice but to work as hard as she can to build her business and provide for her family. I really hoped those scenes would resonate with working parents in the West by building empathy in viewers because of the common ground we share over the challenge of balancing family with a professional life.

5. Do you feel like there are misconceptions about Rwanda? 
The biggest misconception about Rwanda—and I think about Africa in general—is that the people who live there are somehow different from us. What I realized when filming there and interacting with the amazing women who are featured in Mama Rwanda is that these working moms are going through similar struggles we are in the United States—often with much higher stakes and fewer resources.

6. What can women in the US learn from Mama Rwanda? 
Rwandan women have already been through so much—surviving genocide, losing their husbands and children, leading the parliament, rebuilding their country—the fact that they took on economic development and starting new businesses was incredible to me. Being a new mom myself when I was filming in Rwanda, and trying to figure out how to work and have a baby at the same time, I was so inspired by the Rwandan women I met. Like me, they were struggling to balance work and life, but with much more difficult circumstances. I couldn’t imagine being a widow with five children and expecting myself to start a business at the same time. I think Rwandan women prove that women everywhere are capable of things they never thought possible, and that incredible strength can be born out of hardship. These women did not let their circumstances define them. They sought to take control of their lives by creating a business out of scant resources. In my opinion, if they can do it, anyone can do it.

7. What is a Get Moving campaign? 
Get Moving campaigns are social-action campaigns that accompany films about important topics. Get Moving social action campaigns take you from audience member to activist, helping you make a difference in your community and beyond. Our Get Moving campaign is powered by the Moving Picture Institute, a nonprofit organization with over a decade of experience supporting independent films and filmmakers from concept development through distribution. And we’ve partnered with the Akilah Institute for Women, the only women’s college in Rwanda, to help empower, train, and bring awareness to female entrepreneurs in East Africa. Audiences can find out more by going to

8. What do you hope people take away? 
I hope that, after watching Mama Rwanda, people recognize the potential of women’s entrepreneurship to solve global poverty. In this film, we see people who were literally at war with one another a short time ago coming together in reconciliation to better their lives and communities through the power of a common economic goal. Female entrepreneurship has helped fundamentally change Rwanda from a country in ruin to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. My hope is that Mama Rwanda inspires viewers to take action by promoting women entrepreneurs as a primary key to overcoming poverty worldwide.

Film Makers Biographies (Mama Rwanda Press Kit)

Laura Waters Hinson
"Director Laura Waters Hinson is the founder of Image Bearer Pictures, an award-winning documentary production company in Washington, D.C. Her film, As We Forgive, about Rwanda’s reconciliation movement, won the 2008 student Academy Award for best documentary and the Cinema for Peace prize in Berlin. Narrated by Mia Farrow, the film was broadcast nationwide on PBS stations. Laura co-founded the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative, a Rwandan-led organization that harnesses the power of film to promote healing after genocide, and has reached nearly 100,000 Rwandans. She just released Many Beautiful Things, a film about artist Lilias Trotter which premiered in February 2016 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She also co-directed Dog Days, a feature doc about the American Dream set in the underworld of street vending in D.C., which had its national broadcast premiere on PBS WORLD channel’s America Reframed series. Mama Rwanda is her fourth documentary. Laura received a MFA in film making from American University and has worked in the past at the Discovery Health Channel and as a research assistant for MSNBC host Chris Matthews. She is also a long-time fellow of the nonprofit Moving Picture Institute."

Michael Fairbanks
"Executive Producer Michael Fairbanks co-founded the SEVEN Fund, a philanthropic foundation based in Cambridge, Massachusetts run by entrepreneurs, whose strategy is to produce films, books and original research to markedly increase the rate of diffusion of enterprise solutions to global poverty. He is the founder and chairman emeritus of the OTF Group, a strategy-consulting firm based in Boston, and the first venture-backed U.S. firm to focus on developing nations. He was a U.S. Peace Corps teacher in Kenya and helped launch Akagera Pharmaceuticals, which will focus on solutions to infectious disease. He co-authored Harvard Business School’s landmark book on business strategy in emerging markets, Plowing the Sea: Nurturing the Hidden Sources of Advantage in Developing Nations. His most recent book, which he edited, is titled In the River They Swim: Essays from Around the World on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty. He has authored numerous popular articles in the Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post and Washington Post. He has over 500,000 subscribers to his writing and spent the 2011-12 academic year as a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He has been a senior advisor since 2001 to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on private-sector development and export competitiveness. John Priddy, Executive Producer John Priddy is an Emmy-nominated producer of such documentaries as To Die in Jerusalem, After the Storm, 51 Birch Street, As We Forgive and 39 Pounds of Love. He has won a Peabody award, and his numerous documentaries have been broadcast on HBO, Showtime, MTV, and PBS. John is the chairman and co-founder of Full Circle Exchange, an innovative social enterprise dedicated to empowering women by focusing on poverty reduction through job creation, improved incomes and access to global markets. A successful entrepreneur, John is founder of the Priddy Group, the Windrider Institute, and Priddy Brothers Films"

More about the Akilah Institute for Women...

The premiere is benefiting the Akilah Institute for Women, East Africa's only all-women's college that offers degrees in business, entrepreneurship and hospitality.  It's a fantastic organization doing a ton to help women get the education they need to pull their families and communities out of poverty by starting businesses.  Akilah offers a unique model of market-relevant education that enables young women to achieve economic independence and obtain leadership roles in the workplace and in society.

I leave you with this amazing trailer that is only the beginning of many changes for women in the future! I urge you to see it! Get the conversation started and change what is and what will be! 

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