Photo courtesy of TIFF

Rwandan Film Director and Screenwriter Yuhi Amuli

Interview: Rwandan Director Yuhi Amuli on His Magnetic Relationship With Film

The director and screenwriter uses his gift of storytelling to give room to the unheard voices of his East African countryfolk.

The official bio for Rwandan film director and screenwriter Yuhi Amuli mentions that he dropped out of law school to pursue film. Amuli laughs, and says law was only one of several careers he considered.

"When I was young, just trying to find a career, film kept coming back," he says. "When I was 12, I wanted to become a priest," he laughs again. Later, an interest in science led him to consider medicine. As a point of fact, he did enroll in law school for about two years, but dropped out in 2014 to pursue film.

Amuli is part of an active film and arts community in East Africa. "Active, yes, because there are lots of people who want to make films," he says. That includes a scene he calls a kind of underground Nollywood, with other filmmakers targeting foreign distribution. Then, there are the independents. There is one thing they all have in common, as he points out. "There are no clear infrastructures [for film]," Amuli says, "something you'd call a film industry."

Despite the limitations and lack of infrastructure, Amuli has found ways to remain active in the field. His first short, Ishaba, screened at both the Amien International Film Festival in France and the Luxor African Film Festival in Egypt in 2016. The short went on to win an award for the best film about Africa at The Rwanda Film Festival the same year.

RWANDAN SHORTS: ISHABA (2015) - A Short film by Yuhi Amuli www.youtube.com

The film uses no dialogue, making the ambient sounds pop that much more. It's a choice that came naturally to Amuli.

"I grew up on an island," he says. Born in Kigali, Rwanda, Amuli's family moved to the DRC, and then the Nkombo Island, where he began school. "They have their own dialect." He points out that he also learned Rwandan, and later in school, English, French, and Swahili. "I grew up with a lot of languages in my head," he says. "When I think of stories, they come visually."

Photo courtesy of TIFF

He's made two more short films since Ishaba, and only one features dialog. Akarwa (2017) and Kazungu (2019) screened at multiple film festivals around the world, including the Durban Film Festival in South Africa, Zanzibar Film festival in Tanzania, and Vues d'Afrique in Montreal, Canada. He's also worked as Assistant First Director and producer for other filmmakers in Rwanda. Along with his own work in film, he served as the Public Relations Officer for the Mashariki African Film Festival in Kigali for a five year period.

These days, Amuli is newly installed in Kigali. "That's like a week ago," he explains. "That's where I made my first feature film."

Amuli's first feature, A Taste Of Our Land, screened at the Pan African Film + Arts Festival in Los Angeles, California in February 2020. The story pits a mine worker in an unnamed African country against the Chinese mine supervisor when he finds a gold nugget, and looks at current tensions between Africans workers and the Chinese companies that have bought up mines and other resources. A Taste Of Our Land won the Best First Feature Narrative Award at PAFF.

Photo courtesy of TIFF

Amuli came out of February 2020 with a sense of momentum to his debut feature, with a festival and award under his belt.

Then came COVID-19, which ground momentum in the creative fields to a halt. But, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) offered Amuli participation in the Filmmaker Lab, a program designed to help develop the careers and projects of young filmmakers by providing networking and mentorship opportunities — with the 2020 version offered entirely online. It gave Amuli with a much needed boost.

"After the COVID, I was really down," he says. TIFF and the Filmmaker Lab experience came at the right time. "It's been really invigorating," he says. Amuli says it's the quality of the other participants, and the useful advice and contact with mentors, that have made it an enormously worthwhile experience. "It feels nice to hear from filmmakers from around the world," he says

Amuli brought his second feature in development, titled Exodus, to the Filmmaker Lab. "It's a feature film about this current migration of Africans to the Middle East," he explains. News stories talk about the exploitation of African workers in the region, as he points out, but that won't be his focus. "I wanted to tell the story of those left behind."

Photo credits: Deeds Art

Tems Is Just Doing Her Thang In New Music Video 'Crazy Tings'

The Nigerian songstress is hell bent on taking over your summer playlist and it's getting harder to resist.

It has been a fantastic year for Tems. The Nigerian singer, producer, and songwriter achieved a platinum record for eternal banger Essence, her collaboration with fellow Nigerian superstar Wizkid, an MTV EMA nomination for Best African Artist, a billion worldwide video views, and over 350 million audio streams. Not to mention featuring on Canadian rapper Drake's blowout album Certified Lover Boy, the singer has also sold out every show she's booked.

The release of Tems's sophomore EP If Orange Was a Place solidified her place amongst the greats and it was received with gusto by fans and international audiences. A month after the release the Afrobeats singer has graced fans with a sultry music video to go along with equally as tantalizing lead single Crazy Tings. Conceptualized by the multitalented Tems, and directed by UAX, the music video follows a sensual Tems as she sings about needing space from a lying partner.

International audiences continue to rave over the songstress, with Tems delivering an impressive US TV debut on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! this month. Essence continues to top international charts. While becoming the official song of the summer, the track peaked on the Billboard 100 Top 10, becoming the most Shazamed song in the United States and was remixed by Canadian musical heavyweight Justin Bieber, becoming the first song written by Nigerian artists to hit No.1 on Urban Radio.

Tems has been producing consistent hits since her debut in September 2020, and a year later, the singer's immense talent is securing her reputation as a world-class superstar.

Check out Tem's music video for single 'Crazy Tings' below

Tems - Crazy Tings (Official Video) www.youtube.com

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