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EXCLUSIVE: Ugandan actress Tracy Kababiito, British-Nigerian actor Wale Ojo and Rwandan actress Isabelle Kabano are set to co-star in groundbreaking, pan-African Rwanda genocide drama Bisesero: A Daughter’s Story.
The production is being billed as the first major feature about the tragic events in Rwanda in 1994 to be told exclusively about and by Africans.
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Between 500,000 to 800,000 people belonging to the Tutsi minority ethnic group as well as some moderate Hutu and Twa were killed by armed Hutu militias over the course of 100 days between April 7 and July 15, 1994.
Nigerian director Ema Edosio-Deelen will direct from a script which she is co-writing with award-winning Rwandan director and screenwriter Joël Karekezi.
Bisesero: A Daughter’s Story will recount the little-known true story of the Bisesero Resistance, in which tens of thousands of Tutsi led by an elder called Aminadabu Birara (played by Ojo), bravely fought off Hutu attackers.
Kababiito will play Birara’s daughter Epiphanie who joins her father in the fight against the better-armed forces trying to exterminate them.
Around 50,000 Tutsis sought refuge on Muyira Hill in the region of Bisesero, where Birara assumed command of the community. With incredible courage and ingenuity, they held off heavily armed attackers using only sticks and stones.
Edosio-Deelen’s credits include Netflix-acquired 2018 comedy Kasala!, about a teenager who goes on a joyride in his uncle’s car and crashes it, and 2022 drama Otiti, about a seamstress who seeks out the ailing father who abandoned her as a child.
Karekezi made waves in 2018 with drama The Mercy Of The Jungle, about two young soldiers who accidently stray into the hostile Congolese jungle. The drama won the Golden Stallion for best film at major African film festival FESPACO.
The film is being produced by Emmy Award winning producer Richard Hall, whose documentary The 600: A Soldiers’ Story about Rwanda during 1994 is on Amazon Prime.
Additional producers include Rwanda’s Karekezi and Yvette Rugasaguhunga. Hollywood-based independent film packager Slated has partnered with Hall as an Executive Producer.
Both Slated and Hall will be at the AFM for meetings on the project.
“This is a very personal film for me as my wife is a survivor from Kibungo, in Eastern Rwanda, where the Tutsi population was also devastated. Hollywood has let this story down with fabricated heroes and Western biases,” said Hall.
“It is vital for the African community to be able to tell this story in an authentic and accurate way and not filtered through a Western lens.”
London-born Ojo works between the UK and Nigeria with recent credits including Apple TV+’s The Foundation, the Nigerian hit Phone Swap and supernatural horror A Song From The Dark. He is repped by L.A.-based Bohemia Group.
“It is an honor to be able to play this role. Just like the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, my own country Nigeria faced a genocide between 1967 and 1970, that killed over 1,000,000 people. And to my sadness, to this day, there is no definitive and successful film about the Nigerian genocide. It is important for Africans to tell our stories,” said the actor.
Kababiito, who is a philanthropist, actress, show host and producer, most recently starred in the Netflix anthology African Folktales Reimagined, with other credits including the hit telenovela Sanyu as well as shows Kyaddala and Mukisa.
“Epiphanie’s story is one of resilience, forgiveness, hope, ambition and optimism. She is a hero who wears no hat. She has a courageous spirit. To have seen what she saw, go through all the turmoil she did and still choose to work diligently and be happy in a community that is a constant reminder of what she lost. If that does not personify courage, I don’t know what does,” said the actress.
Kabano is best known for her role as the mother in French director Eric Barbier’s 2020 Small Country: An African Childhood, based on the experiences of French-Rwandan singer and writer Gaël Faye and the ending of his previously carefree existence due to the outbreak of the violence.
Pan-African filmmaking has been in the global spotlight as the continent sees a boom in production and increased attention from global streamers including Netflix and Prime Video, which have enjoyed recent regional and international success with Nigeria dramas The Black Book and Gangs of Lagos respectively.
“We believe this important film heralds the new era of the emerging African film industry making films aimed at and crossing over into the worldwide film audience,” Ann Nguyen, President of Slated, said of Bisesero: A Daughter’s Story.
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