Students and faculty got the opportunity to watch the remarkable story of how cycling legend, Jock Boyer, moved to Rwanda, Africa to help a group of struggling genocide survivors pursue their dream of forming a national team. Rising from Ashes, a documentary by T.C. Johnstone and narrated by actor and executive producer Forest Whitaker, brings to life the struggles that are still prevalent in modern day Rwanda.
The Chapel forum took place Wednesday night in Moody Coliseum. Before the showing, there was live music performed by Rwanda natives. After the conclusion of the documentary, there was a question-and-answer session for those who wished to discuss the movie in depth.
Rising from the Ashes tells the story of how four young Rwandan men were led by Boyer to train and try to create the first national cycling team from Rwanda. The documentary shows the past of each of the four cyclists, and discusses what they had to endure to reach their dream.
During the early 1990s, tribal conflict rocked Rwanda as the Hutu tribe began to cleanse the nation of the Tutsi tribe. From April of 1994 to July 15, 1994, it is estimated that from 500,000 to a million people were killed, resulting in the elimination of nearly 20 percent of the Rwandan population.
“I hope that through the movie, students will come to appreciate the way in which we are connected to the rest of the world,” said Dr. Stephen Johnson, dean of the Honors College. “Because we are human, we are all connected. It is important that we remember one of the most tragic moments of human suffering and injustice.”
When Johnson and others in the Honors College first heard about the documentary, their goal was to find a way to bring the movie to ACU to share with students, faculty and staff.
“We learned about the film and began exploring the possibility of screening the film on campus early last fall,” Johnson said. “The film will also be screened in Dallas and Fort Worth following the ACU event.”
Not only did students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to view the movie, but they also had the ability to hear from the Rwanda cyclists themselves.
“Thankfully, the producers arranged for the four of them to be here with us on campus for this great event,” Johnson said. “They flew in on Tuesday night before the showing on Wednesday.”
The next morning at 7:00 a.m., members of team Rwanda, Abraham and Obed, joined students from the ACU Cycling Team for a 25 mile ride.
“It was pretty extraordinary,” said Liz Lurz, senior business management major from Boerne and founder of the ACU Cycling Team. “It was totally awesome to ride with them. How often can you say that you rode with two members of team Rwanda? We had a deep connection, and that was that we love to ride.”
Nancy Ndekwe, a sophomore business major from Rwanda, was pleased when she heard the announcement of the Chapel forum.
“When I first heard about what was going on, I was a little shocked, but at the same time very happy,” Ndewke said. “To know that they thought of this idea and that they also want people to remember what happened is very special.”
For Ndewke, it is important that the horrors of Rwanda are not forgotten.
“I want people to understand that just because you have bad things happen in your past, it doesn’t define who you are,” Ndewke said. “It’s how you move forward, and I think a lot of people got to see that with the movie. This is my history, and the film provided a great way for people to see what really is going on and informing the public on the truth.”
Rising from Ashes was produced by two non-profit organizations. Gratis 7 Media Group and Project Rwanda contributed $800,000 to the film. In 2012, the Rwanda cycling team began to develop Africa’s first all-black, all-African team to attempt the greatest cycling event in the world, The Tour de France.