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Minnesota woman stars in new Netflix film about Rwandan genocide

Bola Koleosho decided to pursue a career in acting after graduating from the University of Minnesota. She's now in a Netflix film and a separate series.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Bola Koleosho first got the performing bug in grade school. She remembers singing and acting in school plays, show choir, and musicals at the International School of Minnesota. One of her first musicals was Beauty and the Beast. 

"I was Little Plate -- I was a chorus member," Koleosho said. "It was such a good time."

Initially, however, she didn't think pursuing acting as a career was a viable possibility. After high school, she went to the University of Minnesota. At the urging of her parents, she studied kinesiology. 

"I'm Nigerian. I got a Nigerian father, and he's very adamant about you being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer," she laughed. "For me, [I chose to be] a doctor. So I felt like I was living in this double world where I'm an artist, but I'm also getting pulled to the sciences."

She said it was tough trying to juggle the two. So in 2018, Koleosho made the leap and moved to Los Angeles. By 2019, she landed a role in the film "Trees of Peace."

Credit: Bola Koleosho
Bola Koleosho moved to Los Angeles in 2018.

The film, released on Netflix in June, tells the story of four women together in hiding during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. While the characters are fictional, they are based on the true stories of the bravery of those who survived the attack on the Tutsi tribe, which ended up killing an estimated more than 500,000 people.  

"I did not know about the Rwandan genocide, so my first experience was when I got casted. All I had at the time was a Wikipedia page and YouTube," Koleosho. "I was overloading myself with the documentaries and the stories."

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Koleosho said it was an "emotional rollercoaster" to immerse herself in the traumatic experience. Luckily, a fellow costar, Eliane Umuhire helped coach her. Umuhire is from Rwanda and an actual survivor of the genocide. Umuhire helped Koleosho deepen her understanding of those who survived.

"Playing Mutesi taught me a lot about myself in ways that I will never fully be able to piece together, and I’m learning how to be at peace with that," Koleosho said. "I understand a lot of the trauma that she’s experienced. I think it just goes to show that acting is an opportunity to express yourself in ways that we’re too scared to do in our normal life. So I’m very grateful for that opportunity."

Credit: Bola Koleosho
Bola Koleosho stars in the new film Trees of Peace on Netflix.

Koleosho moved back to Minnesota in 2020, during COVID, but not before landing a role in the Netflix series Dear White People. You can catch her in the most recent season, in episodes two, three, and four.

She says she "definitely" wants to move back to Los Angeles, and plans to pursue more music in addition to acting.

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