Football has become commonly accepted as a tool for reconciliation within post-conflict communities. ‘Soccer, My Saviour’ is the story of one man’s mission to foster ties between Rwandans across the world through football. The film’s protagonist, Eric Muranwa, who runs the organisation ‘Football for Hope, Peace and Unity’, uses football to build life skills and create a peaceful future. We sat down with the Director of the film, Kyri Evangelou, to learn more about the project and what they hope to achieve through their crowd funding efforts.
When did you first come into contact with this story?
I first came into contact with Eric at the beginning of this year. I have a relationship with an organisation called the Aegis Trust, who work towards genocide prevention and conflict resolution. I had worked with them in Rwanda in the past, filming survivor and perpetrator testimonies. It was through them that I met Eric. As I talked to him and learned more about his story, I felt like it was something people really needed to hear about.
What was it about Eric Muranwa that captivated you?
I am a huge football fan, and I think the element of sport in his story was something I had not heard before. I have heard hundreds of testimonies about the Rwandan genocide, but Eric’s stood out. The sole reason why him and his family are still alive is due to his role in football and the strength of his teammates. They had such a strong bond that ultimately they sacrificed themselves in order to save a handful of their teammates, including Eric.
What are the main challenges in telling this story properly?
Its tough because I always find that the most amazing thing about Rwanda as a whole is how far it has come since the Genocide. The country now is nothing like what it was 20 years ago, so in telling Eric’s story I want to focus on all the amazing work he is doing now to achieve a peaceful future rather than focusing on all the negative stereotypes surrounding the genocide. The difficulty with that, however, is that not everyone is clued up on Rwanda’s history. So we have to dive into that story to create a context for what Eric is doing now, but not in an exploitative way.
There are a bunch of documentaries about Rwanda, and 95% of them are about the Genocide. But they only focus on facts and figures, so it’s all very sterile. In order to make a documentary that talks about Rwanda and represents the future, you need to tell a personal story that people can empathise with and I think with Eric we have found that.
How has the filmmaking process changed you?
All my filming in Rwanda over the last two years has changed me, mainly because you listen to stories that you can’t comprehend, they almost seem like fiction. So I think, as a filmmaker, it has desensitised me to some extent as you need a thick skin to tell these kind of stories. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to excavate these little gems that you find buried within a horrific past.
What does football mean to you?
Football to me embodies two things really. The first is passion. I think there are lots of people who don’t hold their passion for football in almost anything else in their life. Secondly, relating to Eric’s story, football forms bonds between people, countries and communities, and so I think that it truly can be utilised as a tool for peace.