image of Nyungwe

The solar rises above Nyungwe because the mist lifts from the forest. This can be a single shot from a protracted time-lapse we created that reveals the circulate of the clouds.

The shut of the 20th century was a darkish time for the folks of Rwanda. The 1994 genocide throughout a four-year civil warfare took the lives of an estimated 500,000 to 1 million folks. This had not solely a tragic human influence but in addition an environmental one as effectively. Refugees returned in chaos, many having misplaced their lands, and took up subsistence farming, clearing huge expanses of historical forest within the course of. An archived net web page at estimates that within the years between 1986 and 2001, solely “1,500 acres of the [Gishwati] forest’s authentic 250,000” remained.

Issues are trying brighter for Rwanda within the 21st century. In 2004, Nyungwe Forest Nationwide Park was established. About 30 miles to the south of Gishwati Forest, it encompasses the most important remaining forest within the African nation. In 2007, the Gishwati Space Conservation Program shaped to guard the remaining forest there. These efforts are an incredible win for the wildlife and biodiversity of the area.

Staff pluck the younger leaves within the tea fields on the fringe of the forest. These fields act because the demarcation of the Nyungwe boundary, clearly exhibiting folks the protected space.

That is the place “A Stroll By the Land of a Thousand Hills” begins. Filmmaker and cinematographer Chema Domenech spent two weeks traversing Nyungwe park with Claver Ntoyinkima, a son of this forest and considered one of its wardens right this moment. In simply over 11 minutes, the movie immerses you in a magical panorama by the eyes of Domenech’s outstanding information. We talked with Domenech concerning the expertise.

Outside Photographer: What about this place was the inspiration behind the movie?

Chema Domenech: As Claver Ntoyinkima says within the movie, Nyungwe is a powerful forest. The wildlife of this forest is so extremely various, and so is the flora. I feel you can make a whole pure historical past collection concerning the forest and barely scratch the floor. However what struck me essentially the most whereas making this movie was the connection that folks have with forest. In distinction to U.S. Nationwide Parks, Nyungwe will not be remoted from the every day rhythms of individuals’s lives.

A colobus monkey holds an toddler excessive on the cover. They’re born fully white and develop into their lengthy flowing black and white fur.

Our strategy to the movie was deeply influenced by the work of Dr. Amy Vedder and Dr. Invoice Weber. I acquired to know Amy and Invoice whereas my accomplice was engaged on her grasp’s on the Yale College of Forestry. Their conservation work is strongly based mostly on the concept of together with quite than excluding folks from the landscapes they’re working to guard. That is most evident of their work with mountain gorillas in Rwanda. We wished to observe of their footsteps and make a movie that highlighted the optimistic interactions between the human and non-human worlds. As we acquired to know Claver, his life and his relationship with the pure world actually impressed the movie as it’s right this moment.

OP: How did the venture start?

CD: Within the fall of 2018, I approached Amy and Invoice about a couple of movie matters that I used to be researching in Rwanda. When making a documentary, you at all times must be open to different potentialities. Amy and Invoice started telling me about their good pal Claver Ntoyinkima. I knew immediately that this was a narrative that wanted to be informed.

A chimpanzee rests towards a tree whereas munching on figs on the forest floor.

Amy and Invoice put me in touch with Claver, and we had a number of conversations over the cellphone. His brimming smile got here throughout the airwaves. He’s the form of particular person you immediately wish to be buddies with. We mentioned our mutual love for birds; I might later study that Claver is without doubt one of the greatest birders on the planet. I’ve by no means been with anybody that may spot or determine a chook fairly like Claver. I informed him concerning the concept for the movie, and from there, we started engaged on a plan.

OP: What had been the logistical challenges? Did you want permits from the Rwandan authorities?

CD: We did want permits from the federal government. Amy and Invoice had been form sufficient to introduce me to Michel Masozera, a senior staffer for World Wildlife Fund’s Africa program dwelling in Rwanda. He then launched us to his colleagues Tony Mudakikwa and Richard Muvunyi on the Rwanda Growth Board. RDB is accountable for the Rwandan nationwide parks. They had been extremely beneficiant with their time and sources and served as vital advisors all through the method of creating this movie. We actually couldn’t have executed it with out their assist.

A mating pair of gray topped cranes feed on the agricultural fields of Banda on the fringe of Nyungwe. Their numbers are a fraction of what they was once, however efforts to rescue cranes from captivity and reintroduce them to sure areas of Rwanda are succeeding.

Touring to Rwanda from the U.S. takes fairly a little bit of time, particularly for those who stay in Bozeman, Montana—there are not any flights to Kigali from out right here. It took us about 36 hours from after we left Bozeman to after we arrived in Kigali, and I might extremely advocate spending at the least one night time in Kigali if you’re planning on making this journey.

Getting all our gear from Montana to Rwanda was a problem. We had over eight checked baggage and 4 carry-ons in whole. Usually, this may be prohibitively costly, however airways have a media charge, and we had been in a position to make the most of it and it solely value us about $250 to fly our gear on the market.

We stayed on the Gisakura Visitor Home, which is a couple of mile and a half from the Nyungwe entrance. Most individuals solely keep for a couple of nights, however we had been there for nearly two weeks, so we grew to become good buddies with the workers. At night time we might sit with the supervisor, Joseph, and chat concerning the movie and find out about one another’s lives. This was additionally the place one night time we met the artist that designed the poster for this movie. It’s simply unimaginable how beneficiant and pleasant persons are round Nyungwe.

OP: Did you’ve got a transparent concept of the story you wished to inform, or did it evolve throughout filming?

CD: I started by studying Amy and Invoice’s guide, Within the Kingdom of Gorillas: The Quest to Save Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas, which is extra about their work with the Mountain Gorilla Undertaking, nevertheless it covers their work throughout Rwanda, together with a chapter about Nyungwe.

I attempted to have as many conversations as I might with Claver earlier than we acquired there. Claver spends numerous time within the forest, so this was a problem. I had deliberate interview questions and had a tough concept of what I believed the ultimate movie would seem like, however I remained open to the chance it will acquire a lifetime of its personal whereas we had been there.

Claver spends 300 days of the 12 months strolling the forests. He is aware of the forest intimately, however he makes use of his discipline information once in a while to point out others what they’re whereas additionally giving them an opportunity to relaxation.

Claver flips by his discipline information to point out us the very restricted vary of the Rwenzori turaco.

The Rwenzori turaco is endemic to the Albertine Rift, the place Nyungwe is positioned. It is without doubt one of the most colourful birds within the forest and one whose name echoes from the treetops all through the day.

Claver is a natural-born storyteller and as soon as we began recording it actually grew to become his present, and we tailored round him.

OP: How lengthy did the filming course of take?

CD: We had been in Rwanda for 2 weeks and filmed for 12 hours nearly day by day, taking a couple of breaks right here and there.

OP: What tools did you employ?

CD: We shot nearly every little thing with a Panasonic GH5s, recording on an Atomos Ninja and utilizing the Sigma 150-600mm lens and infrequently the Sigma 300-800mm, which is a beast. We had a heavy and durable Cartoni head and tripod. We additionally used a motion-controlled slider and a handheld gimbal for a few of the pictures. Our second digicam was a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, and we additionally used a Nikon D850 for a few of the time-lapse work.

OP: Did you’ve got a staff on the bottom with you or was this a solo venture?

CD: This venture was an enormous staff effort from pre-production to completed product. A pal of mine, Hugo Sindelar, helped me with the filming course of in Nyungwe. He ran the sound for the interviews and the second digicam. As well as, we had assist from Claver and his buddies carrying our tools by the Nyungwe Forest and relaying details about the wildlife.

Domenech behind the digicam surrounded by native guides and curious helpers.

OP: What had been your largest challenges whereas filming?

CD: Our treks to search out the chimpanzees had been essentially the most difficult days. They took us by the thick underbrush and up some very steep and muddy slopes. We had been additionally making an attempt to maneuver rapidly however quietly, so Claver and I might break up the load, considered one of us carrying the tripod and the opposite digicam, which was at all times arrange and able to go, so we might movie as quickly as we stopped.

After we visited Banda, the place Claver is from, we hiked 13 miles and carried all of our tools with assist from three of Claver’s buddies. Most individuals will inform you it isn’t a simple hike, not to mention carrying the quantity of stuff we had been carrying, however these guys made it look easy.

OP: Will the movie be used to additional conservation efforts in Nyungwe?

CD: My hope is that the movie helps Claver get his want of Nyungwe reaching World Heritage [status with UNESCO] however that requires a larger international consciousness of the significance of the park. A good portion of tourism proceeds get distributed again into the communities surrounding Rwanda’s nationwide parks. As Claver defined to me, this garners larger assist from locals for the conservation of those wild locations.

I additionally hope that the movie conjures up others to go to this hidden gem of Rwanda and subsequently aids in sustaining native assist for the park.

OP: Has Claver seen the movie? What was his response?

CD: Sure! Amy traveled to Rwanda this previous summer season and took a replica of the movie together with her. She was accompanied by a bunch of scholars, and so they confirmed the movie to Claver.

The movie cowl art work was designed by an area who Domenech met on the Gisakura Visitor Home the place he stayed throughout filming.

When she returned to Kigali, I acquired an e mail from her saying that Claver “was tremendously happy—smiled an attractive, massive ‘Claver smile’ all the time.” Realizing that he had that massive “Claver smile” made me so completely satisfied and happy with all the staff.

OP: What is going to you keep in mind most from the journey?

CD: This can be a exhausting query as a result of the entire expertise with Claver is so distinctive. However there’s a second that I take into consideration most frequently. We had been filming the nice blue turaco, a placing multi-colored chook, on the path that goes right down to Banda. An older lady was making her approach up the path. As she acquired nearer to us, Claver mentioned hey and exchanged a couple of phrases together with her, then she got here nearer to me.

At this level, we had been in Rwanda for a couple of week, and I had discovered a couple of phrases. I mentioned hey in Kinyarwanda and he or she politely mentioned hey again, and once I continued to ask how she was doing, she grinned and gave me a conventional embrace—I couldn’t assist however grin, too! Just a few seconds later, she realized it was all I knew once I needed to ask Claver what she was saying. The three of us laughed as she continued on her approach as she mentioned “mukomere” (stroll robust), a conventional farewell. 

Editor’s Notice: In January 2020, following this interview, “A Stroll By The Land of 1,000 Hills” obtained the 2020 Pupil Filmmaker Award from the Wild & Scenic Movie Pageant.

See extra of Chema Domenech’s work at Study extra concerning the movie at

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