Berlin Premiere: Grey Matter – The „Burden of Surviving“ on the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, FR, 3 May 2013, 20h00, Hackesche Höfe Kino

On Friday, 3 May 2013 at 8 p.m. AfricAvenir presents the Berlin Premiere of the acclaimed Rwandan drama "Grey Matter" by Director Kivu Ruhorahozas at Hackesche Höfe Kino. "Grey Matter" shows the story of the young Rwandan filmmaker Balthazar who wants to realize his first project – "The cycle of the cockroach". It’s a fictional story about a young woman who survived unspeakable atrocities to find herself committed to the same mental institution as a man driven insane by the crimes he perpetrated during the war. Balthazar can’t find any funding for his project but he still tries to turn his vision into practice. During the working process the differences between reality and fiction become blurred little by little. "Grey Matter" is offering a rare insight into "the burden of survival" in the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. Director Kivu Ruhorahoza has created a moving film which shows the traumatic experiences that distressed the survivors and how they try to cope with them.

“Armed with a daring and creative visual language, writer/director Kivu Ruhorahoza boldly grasps at the illusionary trick of representation in the wake of trauma and its ensuring madness." (Tribeka Filmfestival 2011)  

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Adebayo Olukoshi (tbc) who is working for the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning and a small reception in the cinema foyer.  

This screening is organized in cooperation with the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, SODI, Dafrig, Planète Métis,, Cybernomads and the ISD. n


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The film tells three stories which are separate and at times connected. In the first one, the young African filmmaker Balthazar is looking for money in Kigali to produce his debut film, “The Cycle of the Cockroach”, but the government refuses to finance a film based on the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. It’s a fictional story about a young woman who survived unspeakable atrocities to find herself committed to the same mental institution as a man driven insane by the crimes he perpetrated during the war. Potential funders for the film insist the themes are too bleak and pessimistic – they encourage Balthazar to make a "message" that raises awareness about gender-based violence or HIV/AIDS instead. But he refuses to give up. Instead of telling his production team the news, Balthazar continues preparations for the film without financing or equipment. After rehearsing a scene with each of the characters, reality blurs and scenes from the script materialize, provoking the question: Can a film like this exist only in the director’s dreams?

In that film within the film two siblings grapple with codependency and post-traumatic stress disorder after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. There are no emotional fireworks here, just smoldering, quiet, lonely agony. Ruth Shanel Nirere is especially compelling as the resourceful and tough caretaker sister, Justine. As she hopes, the salvation of her shattered brother, Yvan, is his work as an artist, the eventual wind chimes. Another story portrays a man, locked up in an asylum, who was an assassin during the war.

We are left questioning whether Balthazar’s fiction is enough to exorcise whatever demons may be lurking in his mind. Never addressed by name, the Rwandan genocide is here for the first time explored in its philosophical, psychological and intellectual dimensions. With poetic cinematography and an outstanding ensemble cast, this trenchant and luminous drama is a daring and challenging first feature from talented Rwandan writer-director Kivu Ruhorahoza.
“Grey Matter is a movie about imagination and madness.  It is a story about the capacity of the brain to create, destroy and auto-destroy itself. It troubles me a lot to know that my imagination, my creativity, my insecurities and insanities all come from there.

The topic of this film is very important to me. Though the story has autobiographical elements, I not go so far as to say that it is an autobiographical work. The first part of the Film I show a young filmmaker facing the worst difficulties to make his first feature film. I am obviously showing glimpses of what I go through to make a film in a country where cinema has to serve the community. With this I wanted to tell the story of my country from an original perspective while maintaining the key elements that made the tragedy of my country possible” Kivu Ruhorahoza

Press Reviews
“Ruhorahoza reveals the quietly terrifying depiction of violence-induced madness to be the obverse of the policy of calculated, forward-looking oblivion; his brilliant ending distills the paradoxes of normalcy atop a volcano of blood into a single, stinging shot.” The New Yorker

“(…) Instead, I encountered one of the best films I’ve seen in ages. It was moving, complex, surreal, and completely engrossing. I don’t want to give plot spoilers (…) but I will say that the film weaves together three distinct yet interconnected narratives that specifically and movingly addresses the 1994 genocide while at the same time touch on universal and timely topics of family, war, being a young artist, pointless government bureaucracy, mental illness, family ties, the radicalization of undereducated young men, globalization, and real and imagined trauma.” Studio Museum Harlem

“(…) "Grey Matter" left me deeply disturbed but super inspired. More than a simply milestone for Ruhorahoza or his country’s film industry, the film reminds us of the genuine (and unparalleled) power of art to address, cope with, and (maybe? someday?) solve the massive problems over there, and over here.” Studio Museum Harlem

“Kivu Ruhorahoza’s "Grey Matter" is a cerebral, surreal portrait of a young filmmaker struggling to lens his first pic in a country recently torn apart by war. When funding falls through for Balthazar, the fictional helmer, he decides to push ahead without telling his crew. As the pic unfolds, it becomes unclear if he’s succeeded in shooting his film, about two young survivors and a madman secluded in a mental hospital, or if it’s all in his imagination.” Christopher Vourlias, Variety     

“Armed with a daring and creative visual language, writer/director Kivu Ruhorahoza boldly grasps at the illusionary trick of representation in the wake of trauma and its ensuring madness. Paralleling the protagonist in his film, Ruhorahoza’s debut marks the very first feature-length narrative film directed by a Rwandan filmmaker living in his homeland.” TFF 2011 Website

Kivu Ruhorahoza was born in Kigali, Rwanda. In 1999, he went the first time to the production office of the 100 Days that was being produced by Eric Kabera.  Soon Ruhorahoza started writing poems and short story and after dropping out of law school in 2004, he started working as a production assistant for the Rwandan production company founded by Eric Kabera. He then quickly rose to the position of Production Manager in Eric Kabera’s production.

In 2005, Kivu Ruhorahoza became the first director of the Rwanda Film Festival that was organized by the Rwanda Cinema Centre, the non-profit organization founded by Eric Kabera. After the festival’s second edition, Ruhorahoza, who always wanted to become a Filmmaker felt rather depressed by fundraising, reporting, networking and constant meetings. In 2006 he resigned from the Rwanda Festival and started with the preparations of his first short film “Confession” (15 minutes).

“Confession” went on to play at over 40 international film Festivals including the Oscar qualifying Tampere International Film Festival and a parallel section of the prestigious Venice Festival. After the Confession experience, Ruhorahoza associate-produced “Munyurangabo” by Lee Isaac Chung which screened at the Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, AFI Festival and several others.
In 2007, Kivu Ruhorahoza made his second feature, “Lost in the South” which won Best African Short Section Africa Numérique at the Montreal Vues d’Afrique and best short at Kenya International Film Festival.

2009, Ruhorahoza, a self-taught Filmmaker, was selected to attend the Berlinale Talent Campus (of the Berlin International Film Festival) where he met Ari Wegner, a young Australian cinematographer of an event hosted by Wim Wenders. The two quickly agreed on the idea of working on a feature Film directed by Ruhorahoza and shot by Wegner. The film was supposed to be called “Life”. Ruhorahoza kept writing but not many people in Kigali were interested by his story. Later on he wrote a short story called “An Irrelevant Story about a filmmaker trying to make his first feature”. At that time he had another story called “The Cycle of the Cockroach in two parts” – the idea for “Grey Matter” was born and got finally realized in 2011 after having financial difficulties. The film won two prices at the Tribeka Film Festival in 2011 and one prize at the Warzaw Film Festival.

In addition to completing his first novel Ruhorahoza is working on finishing his second feature film script, a story about an African gay man who is deported from a European country to an African one. His arrival coincides with the one of the most influential American televangelist who is on his "Are You Ready for Miracle?" campaign. The young man who has changed so much tries to adapt himself to the new reality.


  • Confession (2006)
  • Munyurangabo (2006/7)
  • Lost in the South(2007)
  • Grey Matter (2011)
  • Rwanda 15 (2011)

nGrey Matter
Drama, Ruanda/Australia, 2011
D Kivu Ruhorahoza
C Hervé Kimenyi , Ruth Nìrere, Rcmodhcln „Shomi“ Bizimono, JP Uwoyezu, Natasha Muziramakenga, Jumo Moses Nzobondoro, Leon Pierre Kalondo
110 Min

Friday, 03. May 2013, 20h00
Entrance 7,50 €
Discount via Berlinpass, Gildepass, Heavy User Card, Filmreihe-Pass
(Further information:

Tickets and Information
030 283 46 

Hackesche Höfe Kino
Rosenthaler Str. 40/41
10178 Berlin
S Hackescher Markt
U Weinmeisterstraße

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