This year marks the 14th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In the United States, events have been organized to highlight the progress made by the Rwandan society since then. Among the presenters at a New York event on the occasion is Taylor Krauss, a young American documentary filmmaker who for the past two years has been recording the testimony of Rwandan genocide survivors.
Krauss created an organization named “Voices of Rwanda,” which seeks to preserve the stories of the survivors as an important oral history for education and research about genocide. “Rwandans' need to share their stories and the value of their histories for all people,“ he says.
Krauss started out as a documentary filmmaker on a visit to Rwanda. He was working on an entirely different project. But he realized that people were always willing to share their stories with him.
The Voices of Rwanda will make the video archives available to educational institutions as “an educational resource for students and researchers,” Krauss says. Filming of the survivors’ stories is a long process that involves translation of the testimony and transcribing it, a task that takes lots of volunteers putting in days of work for a single project.
Krauss reiterates the importance of letting the survivors tell their story without interruption. There is no time limit on how long they can speak. Some interviews take a full day of filming. “We don't set for them a timeline,” Krauss says, adding, “Some of their stories stretch further than the events of 1994.” Krauss says he has been able to get young people in Rwanda to volunteer to do different tasks for the project. “This is a grassroots initiative.” Some of the survivors have come back to help as volunteers on the project because they understand and appreciate its importance.
The testimony will be used in high schools across the United States and will also be available to museums and other learning institutions around the world. That way, many Rwandan men, women and children will be given not only a voice in history but also an audience to hear it. Krauss says Voices of Rwanda plans to put the operation of the project in the hands of Rwandans and then to continue filming for at least twenty years