July 26, 2013
The lovely Jo Walker from Australia’s Frankie Magazine, wrote a fun article about our journey creating “Rwanda”. We’d love to tell you more about it, but her article says it all!
The article reads:
Trevor Hawkins never really thought he’d become an unofficial ambassador for a small African nation. Oddly enough, it all began with coffee beans and bows and arrows.
Words by Jo Walker & Photographs by Trevor Hawkins
In terms of word association, ‘tourism’ is not the first thing
that pops to mind when you think about Rwanda. Much sadder
phrases like ‘civil war’, ‘refugee camps’ and ‘genocide’ are
closer to the mark. But the war has been over for almost 20
years now, and the government of Rwanda is looking to foreign
visitors (and their fat piles of cash) to boost the local economy.
They’re trying to rebrand. So on the advice of their president,
they did something a little odd: they hired a guy in his 20s
from halfway around the world to make a film about their
country and – most of all – make it look good.
Trevor Hawkins founded Mammoth Media three years ago, just
outside of Kansas City, Missouri. He and his mates were freelance
filmmakers and photographers, and they decided to band together
to make TV shows, commercials and marketing stuff full-time.
What got Trevor to Rwanda was a kind of serendipitous domino
effect: one thing leading to another thing, and on and on till he’s
hanging out with gorillas on a mountain in Africa. It’s also a
cautionary tale about why you should take unglamorous jobs.
You never know where they’ll lead.
“I produced a hunting show called Heartland Bowhunter,” Trevor
says, a little sheepishly. “I’m not much of a hunter -in fact I’m not a
hunter at all- but hunting’s kind of big in the Midwest United States.
A guy who works for a coffee company, one of the higher-ups, liked
the show, and that’s how he found out about Mammoth.
“I do work for this coffee company, and half the company is based
in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is just one state away, and half
the company is based in Rwanda, Africa. Well, it turns out that
the guy from the coffee company is friends with the President
of Rwanda, and so I guess he mentioned to the president about
Mammoth doing a video for them, and the president wanted to
do a video for the country as well.”
Once the President had got in contact with the coffee guy to get in
touch with Trevor to get in contact with the Rwanda Development
Board (RDB), it was all set. He’d go to Rwanda for two weeks, and
make a film promoting the hell out of the country. So what, exactly,
was the brief? “They pretty much wanted to show all the amenities
that Rwanda has to offer, because obviously Africa isn’t known for
their development; Africa’s kind of a wild continent. They really
wanted to focus on everything they had to offer, like hotels, resorts
and attractions. That was kind of their main goal,” Trevor says.
So that’s what he did. For the Rwanda Development Board, anyway.
Currently his film is playing in Kigali International Airport for
arriving visitors, and is being used to spruik the attractions of the
nation at welcome centres and tourist events. But six months or so
after the job was done, Trevor still felt there was a story to be told.
And so in late 2012 he cut another film from his footage, showing
what he felt were the real highlights of the country. Promoting
Rwanda the way he reckons it should be done.
“The people at RDB, they were wanting to focus more on the
amenities for richer white people to bring money into Africa, but
that’s definitely not what I would have done. I didn’t feel like it was
very true or honest or the right kind of portrayal for Rwanda,”
Trevor says. “If I was trying to market the place, that is not how I
would do it. I would try to focus more around the experience, the
people and the natural landscapes, because that’s what it was for
me. That was the most amazing part of it. So I made that edit for
the RDB, but I actually created a separate edit that includes all of
the footage that I took from the country, and all of the people.”
The trip, he says, was a “humbling experience”. There’s widespread
poverty, huge slums. And the scars of the civil war aren`t too
hard to see. But for all that, Trevor was most amazed by how
happy the locals seemed, even in sometimes bleak circumstances.
“Rwanda is known for a terrible genocide; that’s the first thing
that comes to people’s minds. I met a lot of people who grew up
in it. For example, my guide and my driver lived there and they
lived it when they were younger. People in their family were
killed and their mums were taken away, and terrible things have
happened to these people, but everyone is so happy over there
and the entire country lives by the motto of ‘never forget’.
“What they actually do is teach the children and take them to
the Genocide Museum and they just keep it in your face so people
can see how terrible it was. They make it a point to never go back
into that. It`s a very safe country. I never once felt in danger the
whole time I was there. Everyone was so friendly.”
Trevor’s view of Rwanda might seem a little rosy, but since
uploading his own ‘Brand Rwanda’ video on the web, others with
a connection to the country have commented on how real the film
feels, and how well it gels with their own experiences of the place.
“Africa is branded in our minds by the news and mainstream media
as not a very awesome place. The number one reaction I’ve gotten
to the video – from people who have anything to do with actually
living in Rwanda or visiting there, or even Africa in general – they
just say, ‘You captured what it feels like. This is what Africa really
feels like. It doesn’t feel like the news.'”
The film itself, which you can find on Vimeo, is half David
Attenborough, half music film clip: peppered with astonishingly
gorgeous landscapes, giant wildlife and (yep) happy locals going
about their business in cities, on beaches, at markets and schools.
To Australian eyes, the whole place looks insanely, extravagantly
green and lush; saturated with colour. And there are gorillas, too.
Up bloody close.
“I remember when we were hiking up to the gorillas I was getting
really stoked,” Trevor says. “I was like, `Man, this is going to be
awesome, we’re going to see gorillas face to face.’ And as we were
walking up, there was one stray gorilla that wasn’t with the group.
So we walked past him and it caught me off guard. I was like, “Oh,
there’s a gorilla right here.” It was this wild, awakening moment.
“When we finally got up to the rest of the gorillas we got to hang out
with them for a while, and that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever
done by far. Watching them play and interact, and how human-like they
actually are. At one point there was a mum and a baby that rolled down
by my feet, less than a foot away, and I had to slowly pick up my tripod
and take a step backwards, because they were right next to me.”
Uploaded earlier this year, Trevor’s video has since gone apeshit
on the internet, garnering something like 150,000 views. Judging
by the comments section, it’s also convinced a whole load of people
to book tickets on the next plane to Rwanda, as well as change
their mind about Africa as a whole. According to Trevor, the
government is “aware” of his directors cut, though there’s been
no formal comment on what they think about their promo film guy
going rogue. Trevor hopes they like it. And if he ever gets invited
back, he’s not going to say no. “If I ever went back to Rwanda I
would feel so lucky, like I did the first time,” he says. “It was so
easy to make a movie look good when I was shooting in Rwanda!”
Visit Frankie at http://www.frankie.com.au
Frankie Issue 54 July/August 2013