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Finding Hillywood

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Finding Hillywood

Streamed here July 18–31.

A stirring documentary about the very beginning of Rwanda's film industry, Finding Hillywood  looks at the people — the filmmakers, festival organizers, the audience that are part of this blossoming film community and shows how it has become a beacon of hope and healing for a country still grappling with its past.

With extensive excerpts from local productions, many of them dealing directly or obliquely with the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath, Finding Hillywood introduces the major players who set the industry in motion. Eric Kabera founded the Kwetu Film Institute (whose sole purpose is to train those interested in making movies), directed the first Rwandan feature, and created the Rwanda Film Festival. Ayuub Kasasa Mago is a renaissance man within the industry, equally adept at directing, acting, scouting or "fixing" just about anything a production might need. It is through Mago, whose own passion for filmmaking was sparked by working on the set of The Last King of Scotland, that we come to see this budding industry.

As a coordinator for the Rwanda Film Festival, Mago leads a dedicated crew that travels from town to town for "Hillywood" the part of the festival that brings locally made movies to rural communities on a giant inflatable screen. Despite serious challenges, Mago and his crew persevere. The screenings attract tens of thousands of viewers, many of whom have either never seen a movie on a big screen or any movie in Kinyarwanda.

Since its world premiere at SIFF in 2013, the film has screened at more than 65 festivals around the world and received six awards including the Audience Award (Napa Film Festival) and the Critic’s Award (Sebastopol Documentary Festival).

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About the Filmmakers

Leah Warshawski is a first-time feature director who specializes in producing documentary-style video content, television shows and short films in remote parts of the world. To date, Leah has filmed in over 30 countries around the world for major corporations such as Microsoft and Starbucks. She has a B.A. in Japanese language from the University of Hawaii and has worked on a number of Japanese commercials as well as the network television show I Suvived a Japanese Gameshow. She is currently in development for a documentary feature about her 88-year-old grandmother (and Holocaust survivor) called Big Sonia. Leah is most passionate about storytelling and adventure travel.

Chris Towey has worked in the film industry for nearly three decades. He has traveled worldwide shooting for television, corporate, and feature films. Towey has served as the director of photography on feature-length documentaries including Blackfish (2013), a Sundance featured film; Bear Trek (2013); and Trade Off (2000) which screened at film festivals in Canada and the U.S. Towey has also shot dozens of commercials and television programs for networks including MSNBC, National Geographic, E!, PBS Nature, Discovery Channel, History Channel and the BBC.


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A very interesting film about film making in Rwanda, juxtaposed against the history of genocide.

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