Rwandan Filmmaker and Genocide Survivor to Lecture at Webster University

Apr. 9, 2013

Rwandan Filmmaker and Genocide Survivor to Lecture at Webster University

ST. LOUIS, April 9, 2013 - "Rwanda: Beyond The Deadly Pit," a moving documentary about the Rwanda massacre, will be presented on Webster University's main campus at 7:30 p.m. April 23 in the Winifred Moore Auditorium by Gilbert Ndahayo, the producer and director of the acclaimed film. The event is free and open to the public. Ndahayo also will visit classes at Webster to discuss his works and his life.

Ndahayo, an award-winning writer and director, lost fifty-two members of his close family in the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda during a wave of ethnic cleansing that took the lives of more than a million within a hundred days of the spring 1994. His film follows his three year journey to locate and confront the men who are believed to have killed his family. In his film, Ndahayo includes untold stories of the nuns who witnessed the slaughter and rare footage of the alleged perpetrators filmed in the traditional court "gacaca."

"Ndahayo's documentary movie is about forgiveness, what happened during the genocide, and how the survivors and perpetrators deal with each other now," said event organizer Olive Mukabalisa, an international relations graduate student who is from Rwanda. "I'm hoping that he will not only teach the community about what it means to be a survivor of genocide, but also how to move on."

This film screening is being held to mark the 19th commemoration of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. April is also considered Holocaust History Month. Ndahayo was invited to speak by the Webster African Student Association and his visit is supported by Debbie Pierce, Director of the Cente r for International Studies, and the Sustainability Coalition. His appearance is sponsored by the Student Government Association.

The genocide in Rwanda was a result of ethnic tensions between the ruling Hutu government and the minority Tutsis, who had previously ruled the country. These tensions were exacerbated with interference from colonial powers that supported one side for their own political ends. On April 6th, 1994 the genocide was triggered by the assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana, the President of Rwanda. The killings started the same night by Hutu militias and extremists blaming the Tutsis on the assassination of their Hutu President. During the next one hundred days, the Hutu militias killed anywhere from 800,000 to one million people, most of the victims were Tutsis and Hutus who were "Tutsi sympathizers."

Ndahayo was seventeen years old when the violence broke out. He was a young man who was more interested in showing off his hip hop skills, football prowess and his gold medal from the two hundred meters race at the national high school Olympics. On April 10th, Interahamwe (Hutu militia death squad) stormed a convent where Ndahayo's parents have sought refuge. The killers ransacked the convent, rounded up about 153 people including his parents and murdered them. They then dumped the bodies in a pit and burned the corpses.

Ndahayo narrowly survived by running to seek refuge at an RPF military camp. Recently, Ndahayo told the Rwandan Times, "My parents went to hide in the convent, nearby our home thinking they would be safe. I have a life because RPF soldiers protected me and others. In 2006, I felt the need to say something. But I just could not speak."

In 2006, Ndahayo joined the Rwandan film industry. He received training from acclaimed director Mira Nair ("Mississipi Masala", "Mansoon Wedding" and "Kuma Sutra") and mentored by Misan Sagay, who wrote Oprah Winfrey's "Their Eyes were watching God". He developed a passion for film after illuminating courses from a Hollywood film editor Kris Boden, who is known for the works "Dear John," "Carlito's Way" and "Hamlet."
Ndahayo's debut short "Scars Of My Days," a film about love set in the capital city, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in front of an audience that included former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame.

gilbert Ndahayo with a cameraIn 2008, he released the film "Behind This Convent," which won the Verona Award for Best African Film and a Signis Commendation for Best documentary film at Zanzibar International Film Festival. He also produced the film "Flores de Ruanda" which won the 2010 Goya Award. In 2011, Ndahayo completed "Rwanda: Beyond the Deadly Pit" after six years in the making of the documentary and in the same year, he earned co-director credits in the documentary "Life in a Day," that was directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by Ridley Scott and the creative team at YouTube. It was released at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

In 2014 for the 20th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Ndahayo will release a trilogy about his life experience: "The Rwandan night," "The Rwandan Day" and "The Rwandan Silence." To complete the trilogy, which will total 270 minutes on film, Ndahayo will publish his first memoir on documenting the Rwandan genocide.

Ndahayo studied history and psychology at Kigali Institute of Education. He migrated to New York City in 2008, and was admitted to Columbia University's School of the Arts where he is pursuing a Master's in Fine Arts in film directing.
He is the first Rwandan to be nominated for an African Movie Academy Awards, referred to as the "African Oscars." In addition to filmmaking, he worked for five years as writer and editor for Baobab Connections, an Afro-Dutch online magazine on globalization.

"Rwanda: Beyond The Deadly Pit" has been subject to the American scholarly scrutiny and received Santa Clara County Commendation and US House of Representatives – Special Congregational Recognition at Silicon Valley African Film Festival in 2011. Ndahayo is also a recipient of The Vivian G. Prins Fellowship for Artists at risk and often speaks internationally to raise awareness about Rwanda's genocide.