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Mama Rwanda
MAMA RWANDA examines a new generation of Rwandan women whose passion for entrepreneurship is transforming Rwanda into one of the world’s fastest growing economies. A tale of working mothers who endured genocide, Mama Rwanda is a deeply intimate portrait of two women on journeys to build peace through prosperity creation.
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Mama Rwanda

Running Time
Short Film
30 minutes
Documentary, Short

Mama Rwanda

MAMA RWANDA examines a new generation of women in post-genocide Rwanda whose passion for entrepreneurship is transforming their nation into one of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world. The film interweaves the stories of two women: Drocella, a village wife, and Christine, a city widow, as they trade subsistence living for a life in business, challenging Western stereotypes of the “African woman” and highlighting the role of education in empowering women to overcome poverty. Told through the eyes of women who faced genocide, MAMA RWANDA is a deeply cinematic portrait of two mothers on a journey to build peace through prosperity creation. Directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson (As We Forgive, Many Beautiful Things). Running time: 30 minutes

MAMA RWANDA opens with Drocella, a mother of five who has founded an association of reconciled genocide survivors and ex-perpetrators in a bold plan to build an agricultural cooperative. In a village where saving money is an alien concept, will Drocella convince her peers to invest their meager incomes today for the promise of a better tomorrow? Or will old mindsets prevent her from building a business that could liberate her – and her village – from extreme poverty? The film follows Drocella as she rallies her peers to save 33 cents per person each week with the hope of obtaining the village’s first-ever community loan. The goal? To buy a farm where former genocide enemies work together.

Drocella’s story is contrasted with Christine, a banana wine executive whose meteoric rise out of poverty has also provided dozens of jobs for people in her community. Still grappling with her husband‘s death, however, Christine struggles to balance her newfound success as a rising entrepreneur with the demands of being a widow with five children. Can Christine bear her calling as a business leader and a single mother? The film tracks Christine as she navigates becoming a corporate CEO with her commitment to her children and her education – a life that defies global stereotypes of the ‘African woman’.

Filmmaker Notes:

When I first traveled to Rwanda to shoot this documentary, it was to create an NGO-style film about enterprise solutions to poverty in post-genocide Rwanda. When I arrived, what I saw there wasn’t the generic story of a country’s economic recovery. Instead, I was floored by the role of Rwandan women in transform- ing their nation through the power of entrepreneurship, all while raising their families and carrying the heavy emotional weight of the recent genocide. When I began learning about the astonishing contributions of women to the country, and how Rwanda now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, I knew I had to focus on their stories.

Because so many men died in 1994, women made up 70% of the Rwandan population post-genocide. Rwandan women had already been through so much –surviving genocide, losing their husbands and children, leading the Parliament, rebuilding the country, and more–the fact that they were taking on economic development and starting new businesses was unbelievable to me. Being a new mom myself, and trying to figure out how to work and have a baby at the same time, I was so inspired by the Rwandan women I met. Like me, they were struggling to balance work and life, but with much higher stakes and much more arduous circumstances. I couldn’t imagine being a widow with five children and expecting myself to start a business at the same time.

I sought to make a documentary that would break down stereotypes of African women, to show the complexity of their lives, and to convey their personal struggles to love their children well while also becoming entrepreneurs. Every working mom I know wrestles with guilt and self-doubt over “having it all.” These women had very similar struggles but with the pressure of literal survival–they were working to save their lives and their children’s lives by starting businesses. Their stories bring new meaning to the idea of work/life balance, and I wanted to explore that theme through film.

The women in the film could not have been more different from one another. Drocella, who lived in a very rural area, was incredibly stoic and hard to read, which was a struggle for me as a director. Many Rwandans have not been educated to think critically about their feelings or to analyze their lives as we have in the Western talk-therapy culture, so it was difficult to get Drocella to really dive deeply into her feelings, which is imperative for a film of this nature. Christine, the mother from the city, however, was highly emotional and vulnerable on and off camera, which I think comes through in the film.

For so many reasons, filming in Rwanda was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Once, our team nearly got arrested for setting up a rig atop a bus to film the local marketplace. And I watched my son — 12 months old at the time — take his first steps there. But it is the unbreakable spirit of the mothers of Rwanda that has had the most enduring impact on me personally. Their strength in the midst of suffering and their determination to do whatever it takes to provide for their families – without the help of their spouses – is a profoundly inspiring story, the likes of which the world desperately needs to hear today.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2016
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