In 2014 LoveRadio Rwanda was a project that was launched as a multimedia documentary about the process reconcilation in post-genocide Rwanda. The project remains live on the website, and is a great example of a digital platform that utilizes various forms of media for the purposes of storytelling. You can still listen to all the episodes on their site. Check it Out!
Love Radio is a transmedia documentary about the process of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, based on the popular radio soap ‘Musekeweya’ (New Dawn). It consists of a web documentary, mobile Tap stories and an exhibition. The project straddles the thin line between fact and fiction. At first glance it tells a linear, almost fairy-tale narrative. But a closer look reveals the complex reality. While in the soap happy endings predominate, reconciliation in real life is rather more intransigent. After the gruesome killings, how can perpetrators and victims live with and love each other?
The story line in Musekeweya takes place in Muhumuro and Bumanzi, two fictional villages that hate each other’s guts. Musekeweya seems to be a fairly normal soap at first, full of romances, intrigues and villains with resounding names like Rutaganira and Zaninka. The love between Shema en Batamuriza is like a Rwandan ‘Romeo and Juliet’. But there is a major difference: the soap is supposed to do more than just entertain; it is also intended to convey to listeners how violence begins and how it can be prevented. It applies the theories of American psychologist Ervin Staub concerning the origins of group violence and genocide. While the radio show has an idealistic premise, this project also raises some questions. Can fiction get people to reconcile? Or is this positive voice merely a veneer in a country still coping with the traumas of the genocide? And what does reconciliation actually mean? In Love Radio the complex reality emerges gradually. In addition to the radio programme’s fictional story line, the project shows the reality that Rwandans have to cope with through interviews with the soap opera’s makers and listeners.
The photographs and web documentary do not take a purely documentary approach. The camera is used not only to raise social issues, but also as a tool for the imagination. By playing with light and partially directing the subjects, alienating images emerge, with the surroundings as an gloomy stage set. Love Radio is about violence and reconciliation, guilt and innocence, forgiving and being forgiven. But it is also about the role of the media in society, the emergence of a collective way of thinking and about scapegoating. These are universal themes that concern everyone.
The web documentary comprises two layers: an upper layer – On Air – and a lower layer – Off Air. On Air retells the radio soap’s fictional story of hate, violence, love and reconciliation between two neighbouring villages. At various moments throughout the documentary, viewers are introduced to the lower layer: Off Air. This layer provides a glimpse behind the scenes of the soap. Actors and audience have their say, thereby painting a picture of contemporary Rwanda.
Adding context to the themes addressed – such as transitional justice, trauma, mythologisation and the art of concealment and silence – are essays by the following journalists and academics: Assumpta Mugiraneza, Koen Peeters, Felix Ndahinda, Thijs Bouwknegt, Scott Strauss,René Lemarchand, Ervin Staub and Laurie Pearlman.
Like a soap, Love Radio unfolds in episodes, with its own characters, plotlines and cliff-hangers. The first episode went live on 7 April 2014, exactly 20 years after violence broke out. For the following 100 days – the duration of the genocide – new instalments were released on a fortnightly basis. Now that the 100 days are over, the documentary is complete and can be watched in parts or as one production.