Please vote for our first story posted to VJ Movement Newsroom

May 19, 2010 1 comment

Tomorrow, the public can begin to vote to select stories they’d like Video Journalists around the world to produce. We posted our pitch about the genocide widow who achieved financial stability by starting a funeral business. Your vote will ensure that this story gets made. Vote here.


Finding the angle

Ever since editor’s notes came back to the team producing the story about Rwanda’s deaf community, they have been struggling to find a strong story angle, one that will resonate not only with Rwandan audiences but also with the international community. Last week they found what they were looking for.

Here is their new pitch:

Until 2008, the deaf community of Rwanda learned the sign language in the language of the donor community who sponsored a school for the deaf. For instance, in the northern province, one deaf person might speak Italian sign language while in the southern province, they might speak French sign language. The sign language language they spoke was purely based on which country was providing aid money to that region. At conferences for the deaf, the attendees struggled to communicate with each other without a standardized language.

In 2006 that began to change. The deaf union of Rwanda began to create a sign language dictionary in the local language of Kinyarwanda – it’s one of the only places in Africa where there is a sign language in the local language. In 2009, the dictionary was published and Kinyarwanda sign language is now taught in all ten deaf schools throughout Rwanda.

This film will follow two young deaf men who speak Kinyarwanda sign language. Edouard attends a school for the deaf in the southern province. When he first began school he spoke French sign language, but since the switch to kinyarwawnda sign language he has been thriving.
Pio, however, never had the opportunity to attend deaf school because the fees were too high for his poor family. To communicate with his friends and family, he has created a sign language – also in Kinyarwanda. But his signs are different than the standardized signs. Still he is able to communicate with his friends and family.

The film will examine the nuance that Kinyarwanda sign language captures about the local culture


May 14, 2010 1 comment

I arranged to meet Liza at Bourbon Coffee. She is the producer of the team telling a story about a 27 year old genocide orphan who returned to primary school. They completed their first day of production. I asked to screen the tapes with her to make sure they were following all the production rules that we had discussed in class.

We watched footage of Segahinga attending a genocide commemoration event at the National University of Rwanda. We watch Segahinga walking down a grassy hill to his childhood home. He points to where his house once stood before it was destroyed in 1994. I watched footage of Segahinga sitting in silence during the drive back to Butare.

There was not enough light on Segahinga’s face during the interview. I point out to Liza that the footage is so dark we can’t even see his eyes. But the audio is good and I reassure her that we can find verite footage to cover Segahinga’s interview.

We come to the end of tape one. Then tape two.

“That’s it?” I ask. “I thought you interviewed Segahinga’s childhood friend.”
“We did,” Liza says.

We fast forward. We rewind. Scouring the tape for the missing footage. All we find are five seconds at the beginning of the missing interview.

“Did you press stop instead of record?” I ask, searching for an explanation.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Liza says, shaking her head in disbelief. “it was such a good interview. He was so open.”

It’s hard to find people willing to talk openly in Rwanda and they had traveled far for the interview.

I suggest that they have the friend travel to Butare to re-record the interview. The re-record it. But Liza assures me she’ll never make that mistake again.

Feedback from our Editors at VJ Movement

April 16, 2010 1 comment

Yesterday, I sent the students’ initial story proposals to several editors at VJ Movement, an international news outlet, based in Holland that features under-reported stories from around the world. Within hours, we received some really helpful feedback and overall, praise for the story ideas. Here’s what the editors had to say.

I asked two colleagues to weigh in on the pitches. Here are our thoughts:

We think they’re all potentially strong pitches. The main thing is to keep an positive aspect though to avoid the helpless victims trap. And regarding that, they could do with some tweaking.

I’ll write my specific thoughts about each here:

The Pitch: The Economic Impact of Rwanda’s Urban Development
The challenge of this story is the “helpless victims” problem that Ric refers to. In addition, I’m not sure what is unique about the story, as told. I’ve heard a lot of similar stories from China, for example.

Try to find an angle where someone is empowered and organizing the group of displaced people to create a livelihood in their new communities. Is there someone who is organizing for the rights of displaced people? And perhaps, there is one family or person who is actualy benefiting from the development?

The Pitch: Back to School: A 26-year old orphan returns to primary school
I think this story is promising, and the trick is to broaden it so that it is more than just this one person’s story, but tells something more about Rwanda today. Very good.

The Pitch: Burying the Past: A widow achieves financial independence through her funeral business
I do think this story is very strong because it profiles a woman who has made the best of her situation, but also must confront death–and thus brings up an opportunity to talk about the country confronting its history of genocide. So it is much more than just this one person’s story.

The Pitch: The Silent Treatment: Being Hearing Impaired in Rwanda
What is unique, in an international context, about this story? Why are so many (if it is a lot, relatively speaking) deaf-mutes? There may be a story there, but I’m not at all sure about the education angle. It seems obvious, a no-brainer. I’d rather hear about the reasons for the situation in Rwanda–if this is new, or a long-standing situation–and what new technologies or actions are being done to integrate deaf-mutes into society.

The Pitch: The Culture Clash: Preserving Traditional Culture Against the Western Invasion
Why is it so important to Rwanda to preserve these traditions? I understand it’s important to the performer–it’s his livelihood, but to the public at large: what is at stake? What will happen in a cultural and historical context if traditional dance disappears?

The Pitch: Je ne comprend pas: The Anglo-ification of Rwanda
What are the similarities/differences of Anglofication versus the Franco-ification back in 1918? They are both foreign languages imposed upon Rwandans. Please develop this pitch further. That would start from finding out the answer to the question posed, and then building a new pitch based upon the research.

Categories: Distribution

IN THE FIELD: The Culture Clash

April 8, 2010 1 comment

During our course, Introduction to Cinema and Video Techniques, our group is producing a short documentary about the clash between traditional versus modern/western culture in Rwanda. We have already made contacts with one traditional troupe, and we will focus on one man, Kalinganire who has been dancing a traditional style of dance called UMUHAMIRIZO since 1980s. We had already discussed our story ideas, because of this period of 16 commemoration of Tutsi Rwandan genocide, we are obliged to wait to shoot when they begin rehearsals again. We are planning to contact some other people from the Institute of National Museum of Rwanda, even at Rukari at Royal Museum in Nyanza district after the commemoration period.

One of the challenges that we have faced, which are the general challenges that Rwandan journalists often face, is one of our characters proposed that we could first give him some drink so that he provide us the information we are looking for. Another problem is we have been asked to bring letters or any other justification from higher authorities or leaders of an institution in order to be granted an interview. Meanwhile, the information is getting older and at the end, it’s no longer a current event. Also, the relatively high cost of transportation hinders journalists from reaching places where he can get crucial information to make the story more attractive. Those are main challenges we went through, but through it all, we hope that we will end up with a good outcome, if we put efforts, courage and passion in what we are doing.

THE PITCH: The Team: Je ne comprends pas – The Anglo-ification of Rwanda

April 7, 2010 2 comments

French and Kinyarwanda have been the languages of Rwanda, ever since the Belgians colonized the country in 1918. But in 2008, the government declared all administrative offices must conduct business in English and all classes must be taught in English. What are the economic and cultural challenges and opportunities that the shift in language presents? This film will follow four young people from different backgrounds as they adapt to the new policy – individuals who have spent their lives in Rwanda and those whose families fled the country and now have returned.

The Team:

The Budget: 55330 Rwandan Francs = $60

THE PITCH: The Culture Clash – Preserving Traditional Culture Against the Western Invasion

April 7, 2010 1 comment

It’s almost 3 p.m, the sun is about to set. A group of adults between the ages of 20-50 gather drums and traditional clothes. They stand before their teacher who asks them to stand before him in the shade of the trees. The teacher lifts up his arms and demonstrates a dance move as a drummer plays traditional Rwandan rhythms. The man is called KALINGANIRE. He teaches a traditional dance called the Umuhamirizo. One of his students attends because his parents believe it’s important to hold on to this Rwandese culture. But he would rather be rehearsing with his hip hop group. Kalinganire is afraid that this Rwandan tradition may disappear due to the influence of a western hip hop culture. He has been dancing this traditional dance since his childhood. Already, the traditional dance has changed from his childhood due to the influence of western dance. He is worried that this traditional dance may disappear in the coming years and consequently the identity of the country will be totally lost. He teaches the nation’s youth with the hope that new generation will help in reviving the traditional dance.

The Team:
Aimee Consolee KUBWIMANA

The Budget: 25500 Rwandan Francs = $45