Starting from the end of November 2015, a three-membered crew of documentary moviemakers from Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), author Reimo Sildvee, director Märten Vaher and cinematographer Meelis Kadastik, visited for almost four weeks the Republic of Rwanda with an intention to produce a television documentary.
Our teams goal was to make documentary how people of Rwanda, who about twenty years ago witnessed the rage and brutality of genocide, during which almost 1 million people were killed in one hundred days, have managed to build up and developed their state and communities.
One example of this kind of development is so-called gorilla tourism. Rwanda is one of the three countries, besides DRC and Uganda, where there are living these near extinct mountain gorillas (gorilla beringei beringei). As these great apes, close relatives to our own species, are living in the Volcanoes national park in Virunga volcanic area in Rwanda, our crew headed to Musanze administrative district and stayed there for almost the whole period.
There, they were looking for the best practices how nature conservation and gorilla tourism have bonded together to help local people to create sustainable livelihoods. They were following the daily lives of people who are gathered into so-called economic co-operatives and are for example making the gorilla-themed and traditional hand-craft items in the hope of selling them to foreign tourist. There are also crop farming and honey collecting and other agricultural activities that benefit greatly from the national park’s official revenue sharing programme, that got our team’s attention.
But the most interesting life changing stories emerged from the conversations and interviews with people who used to be illegal hunters in the national park that is created to protect mountain gorillas. Those ex-poachers were no more than 10 to 5 years ago eager to put on daily bases snares and traps in the forests, that though not meant for hunting gorillas, were very dangerous and could also be fatal for gorillas. ERR’s filming crew wanted to find out how it has been possible to motivate them to stop the illegal hunting and how they are now motivated to work for the cause of conservation.
As a result, there now many hours of film footage, that needs to form into a documentary movie that portrays the work and life of local people who, through mostly economic means, have now understood the importance of saving critically endangered mountain gorillas, that many consider an iconic animal for all wildlife conservation in the world.