By Ange Theonastine Ashimwe
It matters who tells the story.
If the same event in ancient history got told in such differing ways, perhaps we should consider who is telling the stories, who is telling our stories. So, it is a great hope to see East Africans writing their own stories—their own narrative; forging their own future through story.
There are only a few novels or movies that address the history of East Africa the way it is. When it comes to the history of Rwanda, many non-fiction accounts are written and filmed about it. Most of the curated stories are a basket of lies.
A lot of people have been digesting a single narrative from Western media—but stories like Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique give me hope. So, it only makes sense to see the great anticipation around Petit Pays by Gael Faye’s, a profoundly moving debut novel.
In the 1990s, a little boy lives in Burundi with his father, a French entrepreneur, his Rwandan mother and his little sister. He spends his time making the four hundred blows with his classmates until an act of humanity breaks out, putting an end to the innocence of his childhood.
The interesting thing about Petit Pays is that it is not about Rwanda. Instead, it is set in Burundi, a country which bore witness to the same horrors that Rwanda suffered, and yet its story has been neglected.
“It is a story that belongs to us,” Gael Faye said as he welcomed the public to the century Cinemax in Kigali. Faye mentioned that it is a great emotion to be able to present the film “Petit Pays” to people because it is a story that is unique to him and is dear to him.
Faye, a Franco-Rwandan singer, composer, and writer, presented a preview in Kigali on Saturday (March 7) of cinematographic adaptation of his successful novel, Petit Pays which will be released in France on March 18, 2020.
He explained how he never imagined being able to make a film of it, and he was happy to be able to shoot it in Rwanda with Rwandan actors, Burundian actors, and Congolese actors among others.
The film, with a budget of five million euros, brings together many Rwandan actors, many of them amateurs, and the Frenchman Jean-Paul Rouve in the role of Gabriel’s father. It will be released in theaters in France on March 18.
The little country (Petit Pays) is, therefore, both Burundi and Rwanda… It is also “The lost paradise of a childhood interrupted too early by violence,” says Faye. If this is the starting point; one can only imagine what Faye will turn out next.