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In Rwanda, a filmmaker who once told stories about genocide is now hoping to make romantic comedies and to build a film industry in the country. NPR's Eyder Peralta met him in the capital, Kigali.
EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: I ask Eric Kabera to take me to his favorite part of Kigali. He's a filmmaker, the first Rwandan to make a feature film about the 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000 people. And he doesn't miss a beat. There's a hill on the edge of the city, he says, where he bought a plot of land. And he has big plans for it.
ERIC KABERA: What I really wanted to do is actually to put up a big sign that reads Hillywood (ph). So it's a bit crazy.
PERALTA: So we drive past some rice fields and onto a dirt road. And then we start to climb and the city's density comes in full view - rows of homes winding up the steep hillsides.
KABERA: You can feel that even the air is starting to cool and you're getting the right oxygen.
PERALTA: Rwanda is known as the country of a thousand hills. And when we get to Eric's place, it's spectacular, an unobstructed view of the capital city. This is where Eric wants to build a huge Hillywood sign. And this is where he imagines two of his movie characters might end up one day. This is where they might see the city lights flicker on as the sun sets and where they might realize that they're in love.
So you're planning a romantic comedy. Why?
KABERA: You know, I'm somehow labeled to be, like, the guy who goes to film festivals and present all these sort of sad and traumatic and dramatic films. But at the end of the day, you know, there's also a new dynamic. You know, the city's changing. You know, people are aspiring to live, you know, as normally as anybody else.
PERALTA: Standing there at the edge of that ravine, all I see is a bustling city, the modern dome of a brand-new convention center. I see life.
KABERA: I think everybody, first and foremost, gets shocked to walk around in the city that does not necessarily have the scars of the genocide. They go like, you know, really? Is this what we saw? So Kigali has that feeling. And it has that life to itself, but life that is also covered by that pain.
PERALTA: I guess I do see it. But I wonder if I'm just reflecting that.
KABERA: Maybe. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe it's actually to do with the kind of history and experience that I've gone through for the last 20 years because I know that I'm bruised in one way or another. Each time, maybe, the way I even lead my life, I try as much as possible to not reflect upon it day in and day out. But it's there. It's present. And there's no way how you can run away from it.
PERALTA: Eric wants that Hillywood sign to be on the same scale as the iconic Hollywood sign. But that takes money. Once it's done, though, he hopes it will be a reminder that even amid hurt there can be love and there can be humor. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Kigali.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOKHOV'S "HALCYON DAYS")
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