Interview with
Christopher Redmond

By Novelette Gordon

Christopher Redmond is Co-founder/ Project Manager of the Burundi Film Center. His film, Nothing's The Same screened at Raindance in 2008.

In 2006, while on an internship in Rwanda, Alberta native via Ottawa Ontario, Christopher Redmond met Raymond Kalisa a Rwanda Videograpger. Kalisa had an idea of starting a small film group in his wife’s native land of Burundi. 

Rwanda and Burundi were going through two difficult but similar situations. Burundi was in the process of trying to over come a 12 year civil; similar to Rwanda’s situation depicted in the multiple nominated film “Hotel Rwanda” starring Oscar Nominated actor Don Cheadle and Sophie Okoendo.

Christopher Redmond Redmond retuned in 2007 and was joined by two other Canadian filmmakers Sabrina Buerrieri and Bridget Farr (now Bridget Redmond). Their goal was to develop as a three phase, gateway proposal to the development of Burundi as a film and video-producing nation; to its product, talent and ultimately to the country as a location for producing foreign films. Redmond and Kalisa set out to teach filmmaking techniques to all who were interested in Burundi and the Burundi Film Centre was created.

The first round of training ran from June 6 – July 21, 2007 and taught 36 students the basics of film theory and video production. The students worked with international professionals to develop their skills and create new Burundian stories to share with the world. Classes were designed to foster media growth through communications studies, hands-on courses and practical fieldwork.

Five short dramatic films were produced.
I met up with Christopher and asked him these questions:

1. How did your team find the first round of students?

A competition was held for interested people in Burundi. Anyone could apply. Thirty-six students were chosen, all between the ages of 18-25 years old and with a variety of skills and levels.

2. How did the government/community receive the Canadian team?

The team had the blessing from the city of Bujumbura and the community to run the program. However, they did not provide any funding. We were well received as long as we completed the program and the students received a certificate of completion.  

Christopher Redmond Shooting3. Why do you think it was so important to start the BFC?

We wanted to do something unique and special in a place that needed a forum to tell their stories. We also wanted to give the final French speaking country in East Africa a voice and help catch them up with the rest of the country.
Media building is also very important so arming the students with the tools to tell a fictional story in a creative way is important to the advancement of the arts small community.

4. What are some of the obstacles you've overcome or challenges you endured?

Well, not speaking French was probably the biggest challenge. Many of the student did not speak English so it was difficult to over come that at first. Also, all the student were at increasing different levels so starting everyone out at the basic level was important to make sure they were all on a level playing field.

5. How was a white Canadian filmmaker perceived in Burundi?

At first it was a little nerve racking because I really didn’t know what to expect.  But, when them students saw that we were doing what we were doing without funding and with such a small crew they were very appreciative. They really just wanted to learn, they wanted the knowledge and everything we could impart on them so they could tell their stories. They students all worked just as hard as we were working for them.

6. What do you feel are the greatest achievements of BFC?

The quality of the films was a tremendous achievement along with the stories that were told. The five films have been screened in over 50 festivals internationally. Including: ImagiNation 
Quebec City, Quebec (Canada), Redemptive Film Festival Virginia Beach, Virginia (USA), International Film Festival South Africa,
Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), Raindance Film Festival
London, England (UK), Strasbourg International Film Festival
Strasbourg (France) and Hollywood Black Film Festival 
Beverly Hills, California (USA).  
Probably, the greatest achievement is that many of the students have stuck with the process and are making their own short films. Also, four students have traveled to other countries USA, Canada, South Africa and Europe to further develop their craft. This would not have been possible if they were not a part of BFC.

7. Where did you get equipment? How was the program funded?

The equipment was provided by the Canadian team and a few sponsors that were obtained. For the upcoming session in 2010 we have been doing fundraising  and would like to raise $5000. We have been working with to raise money for equipment and funding for the program.

8. What do you hope you for the future?

There are many things I see happening for BFC, first I would like to see Burundi have their own film festival and be apart of the Hillywood community. It is also very important for Burundi to be in charge of their own industry so helping to establish a solid foundation for future productions to happen is priority. But, most importantly continuing to Inspire. Educate. Entertain. the people of Burundi. We would like to make it an annual summer program.

9. What are some of your upcoming projects?

The second round of the training will begin in August 2010.  Redmond will be traveling to Kigali Rwanda to try to seek funding and generate interest for the program.

***Hillywood -  term given to films showed to hills community living in Rwanda (African) hills.

If you would like to donate to the Burundi Film Centre contact:
Burundi/Rwanda Contact
Raymond Kalisa
Phone: +250 78 850 3257
Canada Contact

Christopher Redmond
Phone: (613) 697-7946

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About The Author

Novelette Gordon Novelette is the founder of Novelty Productions a company that produces independent films. She attended the University of Windsor, graduating with an Honors Degree in Drama and Communication Studies; and she recently completed the Motion Picture Arts program at Red Deer College in Alberta.

Novelette has had a passion for the arts since she was a child. Starting out in the theatre and then moving to film. She has completed several short films and co-produced “Happy Anniversary” which was submitted to TIFF in the short film category.

Novelette is a triple threat, directing, acting and producing. She is currently working on producing three short films and working on her first feature film script. Novelette also has a passion for Cinematography. If it involves the arts then Novelette is game.  

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