TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


Elsa in Goma

Isabelle Collombat, Ron Dyens



Elsa is 18. She has a dream. To be a photo reporter and document the world. Her chance to fulfill the dream brings her face to face with a reality she never approached so close up before: the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda and corruption on high levels in the French government and military. Elsa is sent to Goma, Africa, with Katrin, an experienced radio reporter, who does not need a young dreamer to tag along. Katrin is following a lead on a weapons trade: guns and munitions may have been sold to the killers during and after the genocide, despite the UN embargo.
She traces fishy relations to aid organizations and other players in the war zone. Elsa starts to document with her camera and one photo sends Katrin off on a trail that ends up killing her. Now Elsa is alone.
During their short time together, she and Katrin did connect, and Elsa feels she has to folllow the trail. Her investigations will reveal all the dirt underneath the surface of good; Elsa was 18 when she left Paris in 1994, upon her return, she is much more mature. Elsa’s dream has suddenly made her grow up.


Elsa in Goma is an adaptation of a novel I wrote for teenagers, inspired by my own experience. Freshly graduated from journalism school, I started working in Goma a few weeks after the genocide in Rwanda. The film addresses a chapter of my country’s history, that of the French involvement in the Rwandan genocide. A subject still taboo to this day, despite the mass of books, documents, and reports that exist on the topic. A couple of fiction films have approached the question from other angles; never head-on and never from the fresh perspective of a girl just turned 18, ready to conquer the world. Elsa is at an age where she has to make choices and these experiences will decide the course of her life. She loses her naivety and understands that a handful of fellow citizens, a clan at the head of the French State, installed a secret diplomacy of their own. They helped a fanatic African regime to maintain power at the cost of genocide, and then helped the regime leaders to flee after being overthrown. The film, while dealing with awareness rising, passion and commitment, is ultimately about memory and transmission, about the contrast between the official version of history, as conveyed by the elder generation to the youngest, and the complex reality.

distribution & sales

Elsa in Goma is more than a movie. It is a “knowledge project” with the aim to build a bridge between two moments in time (the present and 1994) and two places with cultural and geographical differences (France and Rwanda) in order to build awareness of what happened and let new generations learn about the consequences now. The key element of the story, The Blue Notebook (Elsa’s notebook), will be at the core of the strategy. It will function as an on-line aggregator; feeding different media platforms that will each bring different aspects of the story and its real life elements to the fore. Prior to the launch of the movie, Isabelle Collombat’s bilingual website will be the first stage of The Blue Notebook-strategy. Its main purpose is community building, while the film adaptation is still in development. Through this platform, Isabelle will share her personal Goma experiences and narrate the story of her dream to make the film. The website will also contain information on relevant articles, interviews, links to related documentaries, events, pictures and exhibitions by genocide survivors. The film launch will coincide with the on-line release of a graphic novel, Elsa’s Blue Notebook, based on Elsa’s photo-diary. Her story will be re-told in the first person and from a different perspective – less intimate and more geopolitical. Once the film is released, a film literacy campaign will be designed to support screenings at universities and schools. This strategy will be implemented in close and continuous collaborations with relevant experts and includes the publishing of teaching materials. Since the Rwandan genocide happened 20 years ago, the main target audience is teenagers; young people, not even born then, who never saw the coverage of the genocide. Due to the gravity of the subject, teachers and parents will of course also be involved.

Only from afar can you get the whole picture. For a good photo, you must risk getting closer.
Isabelle Collombat


Ron Dyens


production notes

produced bySacrebleu Productions
10 bis rue Bisson
75020, Paris

written by
Isabelle Collombat