In Hillywood (Rwanda’s film industry named for the country’s rolling hills) there is a blossoming film community. As Rwanda is still healing from the wounds of a cultural genocide almost 20 years ago, cinema has become a way for artists to express themselves and create cultural discussion. Finding Hillywood efficiently introduces the major players who set the beginning of the industry in motion.
Eric Kabera founded the Kwetu Film Institute, 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. While it is easy to see that Eric is the heart of the industry, as the film continues Ayuub comes to represent its soul with his all-encompassing passion.
Seattle filmmakers Leah Warshawski and Chris Towey have created a stirring documentary that functions as a Rwandan history lesson but also reveals the power of media as a catalyst for cultural healing. The film’s final act takes a breathtaking final turn as Hillywood connects the people of Rwanda with the goosebumps of seeing their culture represented on the biggest screen available.
About the filmmaker
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. She has a BA 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 Survived a Japanese Game Show. Before developing Fidning Hillywood, Leah worked in Hawaii in the marine department for major features and shows includingThe Rundown, Hawaii, Baywatch and Lost.
She is currently in development for a documentary feature about her 87-year old grandmother (and Holocaust survivor) called Big Sonia. Leah is most passionate about storytelling and adventure travel.
Warshawski will screen her film at Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art on Tuesday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m. A reception will follow the film. Admission is free courtesy of JCSM Business Partners.