“Suzette and Kwasa head back to his old hovel for a look around. Suzette has shouldered quite the task in helping these boys in their early-20s. Some of them she may be able to help in real ways, and some of them are lost forever. But the love in her for these young men is real and unconditional, and it was important to me to show that in the film. ”
“After Dave brings some tools to set up a leather shop, we really see the differences between Kwasa and Fils emerge as they look over the tools. After coming from such extreme horror and instability, the idea of working a 9-to-5 is utterly alien to Kwasa. Fils, having somewhat more of a stable background, sees the woodshop as an opportunity.”
“Here we start to gain deeper insight into the friendship of Kwasa and Fils. Kwasa coming out of prison and immediately getting drunk starts to illuminate how deep his problems go, and how he deals with them. And all the while Fils stands steadfast as a source of reason and at least some degree of stability. And even despite his deep pain, Kwasa’s humor still shines through.”
“Here we follow Fils and Kwasa to dinner at Fils’ mom’s house, and Kwasa goes on a date. My goal here again with these normal things is to try and show these Rwandan people as human beings with human desires, and not abstract genocide statistics. Just because they went through a genocide doesn’t mean they don’t want to eat dinner with family and go on dates and work at being happy, just like the rest of us.”
“The chicken dinner scene is one of my favorite things I’ve ever shot. Just a couple of friends trying to get dinner sorted out, with mixed, mildly shocking results. This scene was also cut with a Western audience in mind, to remind us around these parts of the world where our food comes from.”
“The conversation between Kwasa and his sister Hassina in this episode is especially poignant to me because it is central to what I was trying to accomplish with this film. While most of the world experiences the Rwandan genocide through the distance of PBS reporting and other journalism, there are people out there, such as Hassina and Kwasa, for whom the genocide falls in with their everyday living room conversation about their father. The unfathomable horrors of history are made up of real live brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.”
So when I saw the Moroccan foot carver making his creations, what drew us to him was how much he enjoyed his work. While there were other people carving with their feet, I never really noticed what they were doing. What set this guy apart was that he loved his work and it showed through his eyes and through his smile. For the others, it was a way to make a living, but for this guy it was what he loved to do. It’s not that his work was complex, but it was simple. It made me realize that complexity doesn’t always bring more joy – sometimes the simpler the better. You know, it’s like a kid having more fun with a stick that’s shaped like a gun instead of having a real toy gun. Sometimes simplicity wins over complexity.
This got me thinking about Saddleback and how important it is for us to have our people working in their sweet spots. When someone is doing what they love – what they are gifted at or what they’re good at – then people are always drawn to them. But, if someone is just doing something for a paycheck, very rarely is anyone ever drawn to them and that extends to their business. That’s what we strive for at Saddleback Leather and Old Mexico manufacturing. We strive to put people in their sweet spots so that they love what they are doing and people are drawn to them. When we hire at Saddleback we not only look at resumes and experience, but we test everyone to find their Core Values so that we can put them in the area where they shine. I would give that advice to all business owners.
If you have someone that works for you or under you and they are drawn towards other areas, pay attention to that and share with your people what you have noticed. Pull them aside and say “hey I noticed that you are drawn towards people and you like talking to others, but you are stuck in the accounting department.” Encourage them to step out and try something different more towards their gifting. If you do that they’ll be even more successful than they would be in their accounting job and your business, in turn, will be more successful and draw others towards it. If someone is making people smile because of their work and they enjoy what they are doing that’s a win-win for everyone.
“I had a lot of fun filming with Tim and Susan. They are wonderful people, who finally got to meet Kwasa a year or so after we wrapped production on this film. Besides introducing Tim and Susan, my intent with this sequence was also to illuminate the stark contrast between average American life and average Rwandan life. Even the middle class in America lives an order of magnitude more comfortably than just about every other person who’s ever lived throughout all human history. It’s so strange to me that some of us are born into safety and comfort, and some of us are born into murder and chaos. It seems remarkably random and cruel.
For this reason, the scene of Kwasa alone in his new room making a wall collage of his vision of America is one of the most heartbreaking scenes for me. While we were filming, my translator had to run out on an errand, so this was one of the few moments I happened to find myself filming alone with Kwasa. Without any fellow Rwandans to put a show on for, he was calm, quiet, and focused on his project. This was a side of Kwasa I rarely witnessed during all of my time with him. It left quite an impression on me.”
We’ve all heard it said never forget where you came from, and when your memories are peppered with unspeakably horrific scenes that’s pretty much a given. In this week’s episode of Life After Death, Kwasa gets the excitement of looking for a new home as he moves on from the tiny shanty we saw in episode 3. He also gets the “thrill” of visiting the dentist for the first time in his life. All of these newfound adventures are counterbalanced by his sharing the last memories he has of his mother. Throughout the episode we see all of these ventures begin to take a toll on Suzette. She tell us “I’m not trying to change the world, only do what’s on my heart.” However, when you love someone and are trying to help them, there are times when it feels as if you are carrying the weight of the world.
Another one of my favorite shots is of Kwasa just sitting and chuckling to himself in his new house. A real nice moment of slight disbelief at this whirlwind of serendipity
Filmmaker Joe Callendar said “I love the opening shot of Suzette rubbing her head. I was intending to shoot the dentist poster behind her, but by some lucky framing I happened to get her rubbing her head. In that shot I see a very, very tired woman, which on that afternoon, she certainly was. Kwasa talks and talks and talks, but Suzette always listens. Another one of my favorite shots is of Kwasa just sitting and chuckling to himself in his new house. A real nice moment of slight disbelief at this whirlwind of serendipity.”
We’ve all seen them … the late night TV commercials with some famous celebrity asking us to give money to help a starving child. Here in America we’ve seen them so many often we don’t usually give a second thought because it’s so far away and we have our own problems here at home. But, what happens when we see it first hand? What happens when we can’t change the channel? In this week’s episode of Life After Death, Suzette goes to see where Kwasa is living for the first time and it hits her pretty hard. Her words sum up the struggle: “until you sit here and experience it yourself it just doesn’t seem as real.” Reality is much bigger than what we see on TV.
Tina, Suzette’s sister, was on the same trip and described what it was like for her. “On one of our trips, Kwasa took us to see where he had been sleeping. I remember seeing his place for the first time. It was a shack about the size of a small closet. He had some foam on the ground for a mattress and his clothes were hanging off some bricks in the walls. It was cold, dark and damp in his little hut. I was glad to see he wasn’t living on the streets but it broke my heart to see him living in such conditions.”
While the film gets off to a fairly buoyant start, this is where things start to get real. Suzette is visibly affected by Kwasa’s living conditions, as was I. I really grew to respect Suzette’s tenacity and resolve to give love with a very boots-on-the-ground approach, in a place that has so many problems and so much pain. All I could do was tell the story that was right in front of me.
Of course, episode three is also filled with Kwasa’s humorous takes on life. For Kwasa, everyday life is our TV commercial, but he can at least have fun anyway. This is how Filmmaker Joe Callendar describes the episode: “while the film gets off to a fairly buoyant start, this is where things start to get real. Suzette is visibly affected by Kwasa’s living conditions, as was I. I really grew to respect Suzette’s tenacity and resolve to give love with a very boots-on-the-ground approach, in a place that has so many problems and so much pain. All I could do was tell the story that was right in front of me.”