Lone Star Scene: Austin filmmakers document Rwanda cycling thriumph
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On a journey more than 8,000 miles away from Austin, filmmaker T.C. Johnstone
started the ride of a lifetime in the African Republic of Rwanda, far from the cutting edge
of competitive cycling.
"We rode with these 10 cyclists who really had a passion for cycling and wanted to be professional cyclists. Unfortunately, they were all survivors of the genocide and they also were on 25-year-old bikes," Johnstone said.
Johnstone and his Austin-based producers documented the determination of the first Rwandan National Cycling team in "Rising from Ashes."
The team's six-year journey to the Olympic Games came with with drama more compelling than most Hollywood scripts.
"As a director, the hardest part was figuring out what to cut. You start with genocide survivors. Rwanda, Africa, the country had lost just about a million people in the course of 100 days," Johnstone said. "These guys were all survivors of that. Their families were murdered. You throw on top of that the first American to ride in the Tour de France who comes to be their coach who just got out of jail and was going through his own redemption story. You've got these two worlds colliding that created this amazing place for a story."
The documentary is already earning acclaim, winning recent awards at the Hamptons and Aspen film festivals. But Johnstone says the biggest reward comes in the humanitarian reaction that the movie inspires.
"That's really been our focus is that we don't leave audiences just seeing a good story, but they find a place of engagement where they can do something good with their own lives," Johnstone said.
"Rising from Ashes" made its local premiere during the Austin Film Festival and it screens one more time Wednesday night. You can find out about future screenings and learn more about the cause at RisingFromAshestheMovie.com.