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Brophy, Yale alum giving Rwandans a voice through film

Alison Stanton
Special for The Republic
Oct. 1, 2007 04:41 PM

Taylor Krauss believes that we can all help change the world, one story at a time.

Krauss, 27, grew up in Phoenix and attended Brophy College Preparatory before going on to graduate from Yale University with a major in film studies.

In 2005, he began a non-profit organization called Voices of Rwanda. The group, which he founded in New York and operates in both Brooklyn and Kigali, Rwanda, is dedicated to recording the testimonies of Rwandans, most of whom lost family during the mass genocide of the mid 1990s.

"Through Voices of Rwanda, I'm basically filming testimonies, and building an archive of the testimonies. Sometimes one will last nine hours. It's not just about the genocide, it's about their whole lives," Krauss.

Krauss said that several factors influenced his decision to begin the organization such as his work as associate producer of Ken Burns' and Lynn Novick's The War, a seven-part documentary series about World War II that aired on PBS from Sept. 23 through Oct. 2.

From today through Nov.14, the series will be re-run weekly on PBS at 9 p.m.

Krauss has always had an interest in the stories and lives of other people. When he was in high school, he traveled to Ecuador to volunteer at a veterinary clinic. While he was there, he quickly learned to combine his love of film with his passion for different cultures by capturing some of the local people on camera.

"I wanted to legitimize living abroad and being in foreign places, and make it an experience that's just not my own but to share it with others," Krauss said.

In 2003, Krauss was hired to begin production on The War. One of his jobs involved spending hours reading old newspaper accounts and watching the news reel footage of the war.

"Sitting in the National Archives made me think that Rwanda needs an archive too. The country is so rich in oral tradition but people don't talk about their stories," he said.

"It's kind of like with the World War II vets or the Holocaust survivors, where people don't always want to talk about it," he said. "The same thing is happening in Rwanda 13 years after the genocide. I'm trying to fill that void and fill that gap so future generations of Rwandans can go to their archive and hear stories."

Krauss said that his experiences as a young Jewish man also inspired his decision to travel to Africa.

"Growing up, learning about the Holocaust pushed me to want to go to Rwanda and learn how genocide could still exist," he said.

Krauss said that he has been touched by the number of Rwandans who have spent hours telling often chilling details of their losses.

"People wanted to share their stories, and it's our obligation to listen to them. We owe it to those individuals who have lost so much and to let them know, we are here to listen."

Krauss hopes to eventually share his work with high school students in the United States.

"By making sure the kids grow up understanding genocide, as they grow up and become leaders they'll want to do something for genocide prevention," he said. "We need to believe that these Africans across the ocean are not just across the ocean-they are in our backyards too."

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