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The Faces We Lost

A documentary about how Rwandans use personal and family photographs to remember and commemorate the loved ones they lost in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.


The genocide in Rwanda claimed almost a million lives in just 100 days. The world stood by as men, women and children were being hacked to death by machetes. When the international community finally decided it was time to pay attention, it did so through memorable photographs of mutilated bodies and seas of nameless refugees. But many Rwandans remember their loved ones through images of life, not death: a passport or I.D. card photo, an unguarded snap taken in the garden or a group portrait from a wedding or a baptism. The surviving images are precious objects, with so many destroyed and lost forever. A lot of people have only a solitary image of their loved ones. Many have none at all.

The Faces We Lost engages with nine Rwandans (survivors, relatives of victims and professional memory-makers), who guide us through their stories and share their experiences, remembrance and images. It is the first documentary to explore the many functions of these priceless photographs, and one of the few films to engage with Rwandans as users of images, rather than simply their subjects. These deeply personal stories are all marked by the terrible experience the genocide and its legacy have left on their owners. Each is unique to the person who tells it. But The Faces We Lost also explores the professional aspect of memory-making in Rwanda: The Genocide Archive (which holds thousands of original images donated by the victims’ relatives) and the Kigali Genocide Memorial (where many of the photographs are on public display). As the private and the public meet and as each person recounts their relationship with the photographs they have or they wish they had, The Faces We Lost moves to paint a complex memorial landscape of contemporary Rwanda.

In the official selection at Cambridge African Film Festival (UK) 2017  

In the official selection at Africa-in-Motion Film Festival (UK) 2017

In the official selection at Rwanda Film Festival 2017

In the official selection at World Film Festival (Estonia) 2018

In the official selection at Festival International du Film Panafricain de Cannes (France) 2018

In the official selection at Afrykamera: International African Film Festival (Poland) 2019

In the official selection at Forest City Film Festival (Canada) 2019

Runner up in Best Moving Image Research Portfolio Prize at British Association of Film, TV and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) 2018

Nominated for the Best Research Film of the Year by Arts and Humanities Research Council 2018

The Faces We Lost premiered on the WORLD CHANNEL in the U.S. on 4th February 2019 as part of the Afropop: Ultimate Cultural Exchange series.

You can watch the film for free here

Directed, written and produced by

Piotr Cieplak

Assistant Producer & Director:

Clementine Dusabejambo

Edited by 

Jak Payne

Ben Venfield

Postproduction and sound mix by

Ben Venfield

Cinematography by

 Naizi Nasser

Sound recording by

Eugene Safali

Production management by

Ayubu Kasasa

Music by 

Emmanuel Habimana


Mama Lambert

Adeline Umuhoza

Aline Umugwaneza

Claver Irakoze

Oliva Mukarusine

Claudine Mukantaganzwa

Rebecca Muragijimana

Rachel Uwiringiyimana

Serge Rwigamba

Cecile Mutabonwa

Paul Rukesha


Duration: 61 mins

Date of completion: June 2017

Image: Colour

Aspect ratio: 16:9

Shooting format: 4K

Screening format: DCP, DVD, Blu-ray, digital file

Language: Kinyarwanda, English

Country of production: United Kingdom

Filmed in: Rwanda

With the support of: The British Academy, Brunel University London, Aegis Rwanda and Kigali Genocide Memorial.

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