Artistry and insight: A profile of Toronto-based filmmaker Ndenzi Bideri
By Benjamin Biro
Posted on July 26, 2021
Bideri is the youngest of four siblings, her mother a nurse and father a newspaper editor, both from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Bideri grew up in Hamilton, Ontario and lived in Rwanda for five years during her childhood. Her journey in filmmaking and storytelling was born out of a love for photography and a difficult battle with cancer during her youth, which left her in treatment and recovery for two years.
“I was diagnosed with Leukemia and from there I had a lot of time off and I got to learn about myself,” Bideri told The Newcomer in an interview. “I don’t think we get to do that a lot of the time. You get a different perspective about life. In our westernized society we’re so in this mindset of having to chase the bag [make lots of money] or having to get into this next thing and we don’t appreciate life, and I think it takes away from the present moment that a lot of us are missing.”
“We need to remember sometimes it’s OK to settle down, to actually appreciate where we are right now,” the filmmaker said. “When I was sick, I got to learn that, and as I move on in life I try to be as present as possible.”
Her story as a filmmaker comes out of a deep physical struggle and need to create, but her work is defined by a love for human connection. Bideri has a genuine curiosity about the nature of human beings and how we relate to one another—whether it is filming R&B artists in Europe or discussing mental health within Black communities in North America. Bideri is a creator who inspires perseverance, strength, and style, pushing the boundaries of how we tell stories and share ideas.
“It has to do with the way you communicate with people and just try to navigate through that, and that comes from just having conversations with different people. I think you broaden your horizons when you talk to people or when you actually see your city. Just look around and try to understand how the city is shaped or how communities move and thrive.”
Bideri is a graduate of Humber College where she began making short films and fell naturally into the director’s chair. Her creative spark and hunger to ask difficult questions has put her on the path to becoming an incredibly powerful artist who is working to tell important stories through her films.
The filmmaker believes in the fluidity of life and art, and hopes to make various projects in the coming years from documentaries to fiction shorts and feature films. A prominent theme in her work is breaking through the labels projected onto us by others and society.
“I don’t like when people put others in a position they don’t need to be, or say how they’re supposed to act. I don’t like to stay in one certain box, I like to get my ideas from different things […] I think we are all able to grasp ideas and inspiration everywhere we look.”
Bideri spent the past winter making her documentary, We Wear the Mask, where she focuses on the chronic mental health struggles of Black Canadians. The film explores the stigma that these issues bring within the community, and the issues of intergenerational trauma, systemic racism, and oppression. The documentary speaks to the experiences of many newcomers who face these challenges every single day.
“I wanted the documentary to be a space for the Black community to talk about an issue that has definitely hindered us and been difficult for us. When you hear these voices, you’re going to hear a lot of their experience[s] when it comes to mental health, whether it be through racism, trauma, or prejudice. You’re going to be hearing a lot of experiences that hit different marks, because when you talk about mental health within the Black community it’s more than one thing.”
Through a tough production and the pandemic, Bideri has stayed focused on her film and is set to finish the documentary this summer.
Bideri pushes for what we can be rather than what we have been, focusing on potential rather than negativity. She turns her lens towards the important conversations and advocates for a beautiful community, a creative community, and a community of people who engage with the world.
“When you’re on the right track, you get to see what you need to see in a sense, and you need to be present. I think that is the beauty in life. It’s for us to be OK with where we are and know we are going to make it, and allow us to appreciate what was meant to be appreciated. There’s so much beauty out here and I think we’re always grasping for the next thing, and I’m OK with being where I am and I know that I’ll find my journey.”
Kind, considerate, looking for answers, open to new perspectives, Bideri is an inspiration. She has overcome many things in her life and, like all great creatives, she transcends these barriers and arrives at our doorstep a true artist of tomorrow. She is proving to be a force of creativity and vision for years to come.
She is sharp, she is strong, and she is here to stay.