July 23, 2010

Kibera Youth Behind the Camera - Kibera Film School article

Dinfin Mulupi reports on a Nairobi film school that seeks to transform lives through art and media.  See original article here

In the outskirts of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest slum -- Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya -- a group of youths sit in a small room, their eyes fixed on a computer. This is one of the editing rooms of the Kibera Film School hosted in the Hot Sun Foundation’s (http://www.hotsunfoundation.org/) Kibera office. The Kibera Film School, one of a number of projects the foundation runs focused on impoverished urban youth and filmmaking, opened its doors in 2009.
Kibera is home to more than 1 million people who live in sheet-metal structures among heaps of dirt, broken sewage lines and crime. In a place where jobs are scarce and creative opportunities are limited, the Kibera Film School trains youth in scriptwriting, camera work, editing, directing and producing. Well-known film professionals from Kenya (Ian Mbugua and Cajetan Boy among others) work as part-time instructors.

Showing Another Side of Slum Life
One of the film school’s first graduates and the current school coordinator is 24-year-old Josphat Keya. Keya was eager to talk to AudienceScapes about this unique school that he believes gives Kibera’s youths a ticket out of a life of poverty and crime.
Keya was chosen to be one of the 10 recruits who would participate in a nine-month training on filmmaking. “I thought filmmaking is all about entertainment, but I realized, it is also an avenue to voice out and show the happenings of Kibera,” he said.
Keya believes there is another side to the crime and poverty that dominate public perception of Kibera. There are talented young people -- innovative and determined to overcome life’s adversities. Through the filmmaking skills he acquired at the film school, he can tell this story to the world.

Meeting a Need for a Creative Outlet
The Kibera Film School was founded by U.S. filmmaker Nathan Collet, the Managing Trustee of the Hot Sun Foundation and Hot Sun Films, a commercial production company based in Nairobi. The film school was founded following the success of Collet’s film, "The Kibera Kid,” which focused on life in the Kibera slums. Collet, then a master's student at the University of Southern California film school, went on to win several awards for the film.
As a way of giving back to the community in Kibera, he began small training sessions in movie production for young people. As they attracted more interest, he realized there was a need for a full-fledged film school. Today the film school is funded through donations and aid from charitable organizations.
“Having worked with local talent during the production of ‘Kibera Kid,’ I saw a lot of raw talent from the Kibera youth and decided to give them a platform to pursue these talents,” said Collet.
The 10 recruits selected for each school year are offered training free of charge with a small stipend of KSH 4,000. Before graduation, each of the trainees is expected to produce a three-minute documentary and a short fictional film in order to graduate. They are allowed to choose topics that relate to their experiences growing up in Kibera.
Graduates are later absorbed into other Hot Sun Films and Hot Sun Foundation projects, such as TV series, short films, feature films and production service projects. Trainees film their own stories and local events and get feedback at community screenings.
Some of the graduates from the 2009 class have already been absorbed into the mainstream film industry working with several film production houses. Faith Wavinya, a 2009 graduate whose family was attacked in the 2008 post-election violence, is now an assistant editor for the series produced by the pay-per-view channel MNET, Changes.

International Recognition
One of the film school’s biggest successes is the film, Togetherness Supreme, written by a 2009 trainee, Evans Kang’ethe, and Collet. The film, which was inspired by the post-election violence, received four nominations in the African Movies Academy Awards held in Nigeria on April 10, and went on to win two awards.
“Due to this success, interviews for the 2010 classes attracted nearly 60 students, but the film school can only accommodate 12 recruits to ensure all have access to cameras and computers for editing,” said Collet.
Other youth residing in the nearby slums have been knocking on the doors of the Hot Sun Foundation hoping they, too, can be given an opportunity to train at the Kibera Film School. Collet says Hot Sun Foundation hopes to duplicate the training in other Nairobi slums, like Mathare, Korogocho and Mkuru Kayaba.
“We want to change the perceptions about Kibera and other slums; there is talent in these slums. Youths who have a story to tell, a story of their struggles and how they overcome all that. We give these youths a voice to tell their stories,” said Collet.
“The long-term plan is to have a similar project in other African nations, especially within East Africa, by partnering with other organizations,” said Collet.

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