Posted on Dec 21, 2010 in Blog

Well, it’s been many (way too many) days since we last updated, and of course so many incredible things have happened and we’ve been so crazy busy that time just passed us by. The big news as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is that we have a movie- and we think it’s pretty awesome. Titled “Majukumu,” meaning responsibility in Swahili, is the creation and manifestation made possible by countless and tireless passionate people. And we can’t wait to share it with you when we get home! To re-cap the rest of the workshop, after a long and amazing shoot day in the Kibera slum we finished up the filming back at the Margpher Guest house where we utilized all our resources (beautiful surroundings + house staff as actors) and it turns out the people with absolutely no acting experience are really talented. There is no lack of talent or energy or absolute joy in any of the kids we worked with including every other Kenyan we had the pleasure of sharing the experience with. We all have fallen in love with these people and feel extremely lucky to have created a film together.

The happy crew

Izzo's bug makes an appearance on set

Ian being himself. Adorable.

What’s the saying, without the sour the sweet ain’t so sweet? Not surprisingly, sticking 8 budding teenagers together in a house for 10 days there were some bumps in the road. 15 yr. old Beryl from Kibera who came with her brother Arnold, turned out to be somewhat of a trouble maker from day one. Of course we always want everyone to have a great time and learn as much as possible, but the key is that they want to be there and don’t hinder the process. Beryl showed the typical signs of teenagerism, not totally engaging, talking back to the interns, and basically making overall bad decisions. After a ‘last chance’ warning from us, and to clarify these weren’t horrible things but were jeopardizing our stay at the guest house so we had to take action, we had to unfortunately send her home with two nights remaining. Shortly after her mom was called and the ride home was arranged for later that day, Jo grabbed Beryl for an interview to have her reflect on the situation. Beryl mentioned upon her return home she would surely run away to avoid her parents punishment. Not thinking the runaway mission would happen before she actually got home, we all saw Beryl casually walk past us as the production was in full swing at the front gate. 10 minutes or so later Evans (assistant teacher/actor) mentioned that Beryl had walked down the road, the very long dirt road that was miles away from town and from her home. Strangely he didn’t think anything of it, and by the time he told Adam about it she was way out of sight. A search party broke out leaving half the crew behind wondering what had just happened, and among the people running after her was Arnold who couldn’t hold back his tears. Besides adding some drama to a pretty seamless workshop, after seeing Beryl a few days later at the movie screening it seemed this bump in the road was a pretty significant experience for her. She was all smiles when she saw us and later discreetly handed over a letter which not only apologized for her bad judgement but also said that she loves us and hopes we will never forget her, the future filmmaker.

Goodbye Beryl

The remaining days were devoted to intense and long hours of editing and searching for music, in which most of the kids had minimal computer skills. After giving the interns a crash course in Final Cut Pro they set out to help the students edit all 20 scenes (!) with our help of course but we were very impressed by their adaptability and aptitude for editing (and computers in general with iTunes, Photobooth, etc.) Not sure if we mentioned that a little more than a third of the movie is in swahili, which we promoted as much as possible to stay true to their blend of english and Swahili. This was an interesting challenge not only in the script writing process (so thankful to our interns Kevin & Kennedy who totally stepped in) but also in directing and then of course in the edit room. Who knew?

The edit begins

Ian suggests a cut

Adam shows Martha and Kevin shortcuts

Throughout the workshop the students were interviewed at three different times, and asked varying degrees of questions relating to their experience and personal life. We had planned on doing home visits with all the kids who lived within a couple hours of Nairobi, which eliminated Susan who lived rurally over four hours away. We were also concerned that half of the kids not living in Kibera where the screening was held wouldn’t be able to make it because getting around Nairobi is not an easy thing and none of the families have their own cars…
Sending the kids home that last day was hard but not as sad as it could have been because I knew we would see at least half of them in Kibera the next day for the film screening. That night without the energy of the kids around was very different, sitting around our large mostly empty dinner table was so strange. Even Auntie who had a little bit of adjusting to do as we all descended on her home, spending almost 10 solid days there, was very heartbroken to see the kids leave. She handed them all her phone number and told them to please call her whenever they wanted, and to always feel welcome there. We all had gotten so used to each other and really enjoyed the company and energy everyone brought to the house.

All of us with Auntie on the last day

After a tiresome day and night of putting the final touches on the film, all 19 minutes of it (our longest yet) we set out to Kibera to prep for the screening. Held at a decently sized concrete floored metal thatched room (randomly Barack Obama had visited the same space while he was governor) with a projector screen and several chairs, the kids slowly began to show up. In Kenya everyone is notoriously late so we told them that the show started at 2pm but we really planned to start at 3pm. So by 3:30pm we were ready to start the film after a 10 minute slide show that Jo put together with pictures from the workshop – with many taken by the students. As the movie started we were still missing three students that were unsure if they could make it. But sure enough half way through all three students trickled in with their families and quietly sat down. After a round of applause we announced that we’d be showing the film again for those who came late. And everyone stayed for the second showing! A good sign for sure. It was so great to see all the tiny kids dancing in their seats to the music and the reactions from the audience at some of the funnier parts. Overall It was a huge success, and considering all the kids were there to share the film with their families and friends on a “little, big” screen was amazing. It was definitely a surreal moment sitting in the back of the room as the movie was playing thinking back about our first conversations about coming to Kenya and doing a film workshop.

Arnold as he watches himself onscreen

Monique laughs at Izzo's cameo in the film

Belinda sells Kibera Film School DVD's and T-shirts out front

The students receive their certificates and applause

Arnold and Ian play around with the camera as other kids watch

After we donated some film gear to The Hot Sun Foundation. I think they were pretty excited.

The following days were dedicated to home visits with the kids and it seemed like they were all happy to have us around again. We did a series of “living portraits” with them and their families, and interviewed parents and siblings along the way. It really gave us a sweet and intimate look into their lives and the realities they face concerning poverty, losing a parent, post election violence, etc. The parents and siblings were all extremely gracious and thankful for the opportunity their children were given, although they really gave us the greatest gift in their trust to work with their children.

Jason's home visit outside his mothers clothing shop which he lives behind

To round off an amazing journey together the four of us went on safari! Another  adventure in itself entirely, and unexplainable in words so upon our return home we’ll be posting a video with pictures and footage we took that hopefully captured the essence of being in the wild only a few feet away from 5 lions tearing into a freshly killed buffalo. As our guide Jackson explained it to us, “so close you crap yourself.” Well said.




The king.

Maasai Mara sunset. Sunrises were equally incredible.

The white rhino (apparently hard to find) on Lake Nakuru surrounded by flamingos.

A dirty and tired bunch after 5 days of safari but feeling very satisfied by our good fortune in the wild.