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Burundi fest aims to train filmmakers

Hope is to help build local pic industry

Three years after hosting its inaugural edition in the tiny east African republic, the Burundi Film Festival is back, and with a mission: Train young filmmakers and help plant the seeds of a local industry.

Organizers hope the second edition, which unspools in the capital, Bujumbura, on Aug. 27, will help pave the way to turn the festival into an annual event. This year’s festival was funded by private donations, which were matched by Parviz Yazdani, of the Canada World Cinema Project.

Christopher Redmond, co-founder of the Burundi Film Center, says the festival will be the culmination of a month-long series of workshops held by the BFC to train local filmmakers. During the training period, the BFC, with the assistance of the Toronto Film Festival, produced five short films with young Burundians. After the fest’s conclusion, those films will tour the countryside for a week in a series of open-air screenings in small towns and villages.

“When we started this three years ago, it was just a simple idea,” Redmond says. “Take a bunch of youth, train them to create films, and then see what they come up with. What we ended up getting were these amazing stories about some really important issues — rape, AIDS, refugees — and ultimately just having big dreams and bigger obstacles.”

Those films are still traveling the festival circuit.

Burundi is in the process of emerging from the shadows of a civil war that lasted more than 15 years. Last month, the country held its first multi-party election since the war officially ended in 2005, a vote marred by violence across the countryside.

Redmond says that adversity motivated organizers and Burundian filmmakers to forge ahead with this year’s program.

“It’s important that people have a voice or an outlet to speak out,” he says.

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