• BIO
Rwanda, USA | 2010 | 16 min | Short Narrative
Directed by: Mike Smith Rivera
World Premiere

Rwanda. 1994- In the early morning hours of April 6, 1994, the President of Rwanda is assassinated, signaling the end to the fragile cease-fire between Hutu extremists and the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front). All across the country, foreigners, in fear for their lives, are evacuated while Tutsis and political moderates are rounded up and violently murdered by their neighbors, government soldiers, and militias.

Among the evacuees are the Belgian nuns of the St. Maria Goretti School for Girls, leaving 7 students to watch over each other in the hope that someone will return to rescue them before the arrival of the Hutu militia.

Asura, a Tutsi girl, dreams of persecution. The country’s tumultuous history and her family’s own personal experiences have taught her all she needs to know about their chances for survival. Mosi, the head girl and a Hutu, has the difficult job of watching over the girls and keeping them calm despite Asura’s hysterics. Emotions rise to the surface and sides form as the girls address political and personal events, challenging each other’s ideas.

Mandani returns to alert the girls of the coming militia and their differences are soon forgot. Three men arrive, armed with machetes, but Mosi refuses to hand over her classmates. The girls stand strong against their threats and bullying, willing to risk everything to prevent murder. Can they convince the men that they are wrong before it’s too late?

Director: Mike Smith Rivera
Producer: Kelly Anne Burns, Mike Smith Rivera
Writer: Kelly Anne Burns, Mike Smith Rivera (adapted from material written by John P. McEneny)
Editor: Mike Smith Rivera, Kelly Ann Burns
Director of Photography: Jason Banker
Composer: Enrique "Hank" Feldman

Akilah Safiya, Alex Marshall-Brown, Be Rivers, Cherrye J. Davis, Erica McLaughlin, Jalin Washington, Makuda Steady, Marie-Claudine Mukumambano, Melody Hope Wallace, Nia Ashley, Sean Phillips

"Meant to Be"
My husband and I saw a play several years ago called Cold April in a small NYC theater festival. it was one of those theater experiences that has stayed with me ever since. The story about young schoolgirls banding together and sacrificing their lives for their beliefs and bonds of sisterhood was the most emotional journey I've ever taken. A year later, we were still talking about the play and finally made the decision to go forward with a film. From that point on, the pieces kept falling together in such a way that we believe this story was meant for us to tell. We were able to find some of the youngest and most extraordinary female actors in all of new york city to work on this project. Then while casting the militia men, one of our actors referred us to Marie-Claudine Mukamabano, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. She quickly became an integral part of this production as an advisor whose input was crucial in grounding the film and giving the actors an idea of the gravity of the story. A small part of our documentary of her even ended up in the film. Another coincidence granted us contact with the U.N. and their location footage. Its been a long time in the making, but this film has truly been a passion project.

Mike Smith Rivera: Adaptation, Additional Photography, Camera Operator, Director, Editor, Producer, Property Master, Set Decorator, Sound Editor, Sound Mixer, Writer
Mike Smith Rivera has been directing and editing short films and music videos since 1992. A professional actor and voice-over artist, he received an NEA performance grant in 2002 and continues to perform, write, and make films and plays with his magnificent wife, Kelly Ann Burns.