Joel Karekezi graduated in 2008 in film directing from Cinecours. In 2012 his script The Mercy of the Jungle won the CFI Award for the Most Promising Audiovisual Project at Durban Filmart and the STEP development award at Luxor African Film Festival 2015 It was selected at Cannes - La Fabrique des cinemas du monde in 2013, Locarno Open Doors in 2014, Atelier Grand Nord in Quebec in 2015, Production Forum in Namur in 2015 et Rencontres de Coproduction Francophone in Paris in 2015
I was born in 1985 in Rwanda, in Gisenyi, a town on the shores of Lake Kivu near the
border. I am a Rwandan genocide survivor. When genocide started, I was eight. I saw
many dead people on the streets. Lake Kivu turned red from the blood and the bodies of innocent people. I even saw children and babies lying on the banks, and familiar faces walking around town, armed with machetes, boasting about killing their friends, their neighbors. Some days after the genocide started, my father was killed. He was a Tutsi. I had to run away and hide to survive. I was convinced that I was going to die and wondered what I had done to deserve such a fate. What would I do with my life if I miraculously survived? What would be the meaning of my existence? With my sister, I managed to get to Goma, in Congo. I was only a child and I became a refugee. Soon after, new refugees arrived in Goma: the genocidists, fearing reprisals, fled Rwanda when it was taken over by the Tutsi army. The situation became apocalyptic in Goma: the persecutors joined their victims in the overpopulated camps, the smell of death was lingering in town, flies invading every corner of every district… We were dying from cholera and other diseases. At first I thought God wanted to punish the culprits, these new Hutu refugees who had perpetrated unspeakable atrocities. But soon enough I realized that none of these children, be they sons or daughters of yesterday’s or today’s persecutors, deserved the fate which had fallen upon them. Ever since the events my family and my people endured, I have been tormented by questions related to genocide and war. As a survivor, I decided to become an advocate for peace. I want to tell my story, and pass on the ones that I have been told. I want to report the true face of war, and reveal the mechanisms that feed the conflicts. That’s why I turned to cinema. I took lessons of filmmaking on the Internet. I learned the basics of writing and threw myself into the production of my first feature film: Imbabazi: The Pardon. This self-produced film takes place during the genocide and forced me to dive back into these events, but considering the big picture, and ask myself what future the next generations will have with such history. The Mercy of the Jungle is the result of these reflections.