Headshot: Alice Kayibanda; Above: Lukas Pitsch
Kantarama Gahigiri (M.A. ’06) got her start in the entertainment industry as a set production assistant, working on movies and television shows, including Men in Black 3 and Curb Your Enthusiasm. She now mainly concentrates on stories that focus on identity, diversity, and social issues.
“My first feature, Tapis Rouge, hits on important issues such as racism, immigration, integration. It has very heavy subjects, but it’s not addressed in a heavy way,” says Gahigiri, who attended New York Tech as a Fulbright Award recipient. The film was met with positive reviews, and she and her co-director Frederic Baillif won the Director’s Award at the Chelsea Film Festival in 2015. More recently, she received the New York Women in Film and Television 2021 Outstanding Female Content Creator award for her latest short film Ethereality. She is currently developing her second feature, though its subject matter is under wraps. “I can tell you it will be shot in East Africa. I’m very excited about it,” she says.
Gahigiri also produced, wrote, and directed a series of short episodes called Me + U, which won multiple awards, including the 2013 Best Web Series at the L.A. Comedy Film Festival and sold to United Airlines at the time. Her career has partly encompassed embracing versatility and learning, an attitude she brought to the New York Tech campus from day one.
“I had different options, but New York Tech really stood out in the flexibility it gave you to have classes in the evening and work during the day,” says Gahigiri, who won the John J. Theobald Graduate Achievement Award at New York Tech. She credits her visual aesthetics class, where she learned new ways to analyze art in its diversity and connectivity, as just one of the courses that put her on a path to success. “To this day, I sometimes recall the discussions we had during our visual aesthetics class and the books we read, and reopen them for my current research,” she says.
When it comes to her work, Gahigiri has the world from where she can find inspiration. Her father worked for the United Nations, and Gahigiri counts Rwanda, Switzerland, Kenya, and Australia as some of the countries she’s called home. Studying in the United States, where so much of the entertainment industry resides, was one more helpful part of her journey.