Rwandan Cycling Team's Mission Impossible
Athletes who faced genocide as children are now national heroes
In the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Adrien Niyonshuti lost 60 of his relatives. Nearly two decades later, he competed in the 2012 London Olympics. The story of Niyonshuti, a survivor-turned-hero, is told in the new film Rising from Ashes.
Niyonshuti's journey would not have been possible without renowned cyclist Jock Boyer, who moved to Rwanda in 2005 to build the country’s national team. Boyer quickly realized, however, that the athletes still struggled to overcome the traumatic psychological effects of the mass killings.
“After I spent time with the riders, it really started to hit me: They’d been through hell,” Boyer says in the film. “You could see how much hope the bike gave them because it was their way out.”
In addition to their traumatic past, the riders faced other obstacles. Many could not read or write. Some were malnourished and had never seen a doctor. They lived in homes without water or electricity. Team Rwanda's mission therefore grew beyond developing great athletes to providing each rider with a living wage, basic education and access to health care.
From the original group, Niyonshuti became the first to ride for Africa’s top cycling team. His journey with his teammates and Boyer—as well as what their accomplishments meant to their fellow countrymen—is detailed in the new film.
Rising from Ashes has already won numerous awards including the official selection at the Hamptom’s Film Festival, Aspen Filmfest and the Napa Valley Film Festival.
10/18: Austin Film Festival, Austin, TX.
10/19: Heartlands Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN
10/24: Austin Film Festival, Austin, TX
11/07: Napa Valley Film Festival, Napa, CA
11/10: Napa Valley Film Festival, Napa, CA
11/11: Napa Valley Film Festival, Napa, CA