The road to Sundance Film Festival


Kivu Ruhorahoza TV-Bay Magazine
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with Kivu Ruhorahoza
Issue 98 - February 2015

Things of the Aimless Wanderer, the latest feature from Rwandese filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza (Grey Matter) is a beautifully crafted narrative about paranoia, mistrust and misunderstandings. Premiering at this year's Sundance Film Festival, audiences can expect an arresting film that reveals a series of cryptic and loosely connected narrative shards exploring the delicate relationship between 'Westerners' and 'local Africans'.

Sundance had not been an initial target when Moon Road Films began developing the film according to Ruhorahoza, who wrote, directed and produced the feature. "By the time we'd begun work on the edit, the 'early bird' deadline for feature film submissions had already passed us, and so it was a long shot when we decided to submit it two hours before the final deadline closed."

A big fan of auteur features, Ruhorahoza typically loves films that are poetic and cinematic objects, with strong political and philosophical statements. "For Things of the Aimless Wanderer, it felt natural to tell the tragic story of a woman's disappearance from three different perspectives. A deep rooted mistrust and suspicion, the result of many years of violence, leaves our characters unable to communicate with one another.

"Being entirely self funded, my budget wasn't substantial, however I knew that renting equipment wasn't going to be an option. Quite simply, there aren't any rental houses in Kigali, Rwanda, which meant I had to buy the entire camera department. My priorities were uncompressed RAW, for more flexibility in post, good, wide dynamic range and resolution. I looked at all of the cameras in a similar price bracket to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, but they all had something that bothered me - the look! In the end, it was the ability to shoot CinemaDNG RAW and the extraordinary dynamic range, plus the fact that DaVinci Resolve was bundled free, that made it an easy decision.

Knowing well that the vast majority of films produced today won't ever get a theatrical release, Ruhorahoza still chose to shoot in CinemaDNG RAW. "Even if the film is eventually delivered for the web in 720p, I know that I will get better quality from filming in RAW and it allows me to experiment with different looks in post. We also filmed our exteriors without any permits, adopting a street hawker approach, and so inevitably we had some shots that needed reframing, or had to deal with exposure and color temperature issues, something that would have been more difficult without RAW."

Well before he started shooting, Ruhorahoza had decided that Things of the Aimless Wanderer would look gritty, organic, lush and at times dreamy. It was a conscious choice to avoid that silky, clean HD look. "I wanted the final look for the forest scenes to be as close to Warwitch by Kim Nguyen as possible. I wanted the colors to pop out, the rays of light to penetrate the thick branches, giving the forest scene an almost spiritual feel. Whenever possible, I used my Tiffen ND filters to get that shallow depth of field and increase the mystery of the forest as well as the paranoia of the character, who feels he is being followed.

"I guess the biggest challenge came from the fact that my small cast and crew had day jobs, which only left us with small windows of time where we could get a take done. That took a lot of careful planning. That was compounded by the fact the we also only had one solid state drive (SSD) after several failed, leaving me with around 30 minutes of RAW recording before I had to offload all of the data on to a hard drive, back up the rushes and then reformat that SSD for reusing. The funny thing is that I didn't actually see any of the rushes during the film's production phase because my MacBook Pro was not powerful enough for DaVinci Resolve.

Instead all I could view was individual still frames and the colors were not as flat as I'd imagined, sometimes looking too cold, or too warm. It wasn't until we got into post that and saw the rushes that I realized just how much rich detail the Blackmagic Cinema Camera rushes actually retain.

"Back in London I sat down with colorist Joseph Bicknell, who grades on DaVinci Resolve, and went through lots of stills from the film with him, which I'd graded using iPhoto on my Mac. I told him that everything had been shot in RAW and that his collaboration was going to be crucial in achieving the look I wanted. We talked at length about the look of each of the films key scenes, with Joseph advising on what was possible and not.


Tags: iss098 | sundance film festival | things of the aimless wanderer | moon road films | film production | Kivu Ruhorahoza
Contributing Author Kivu Ruhorahoza

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