safe_image

Making Movies in Africa’s Largest Slum

• Jun. 1, 2014 • Artists, Featured Videos, PopularComments (1)43115

“Kibera is just another place in Africa that needs some care–and storytelling is all about care. This is a really, really difficult place to live, and to think that people will pursue their art, any way possible, I find very, very encouraging.”—Dwayne Johnson-Cochran

NAIROBI, KENYA– Indoor plumbing, paved streets, and buildings constructed from brick and mortar are rare finds in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. The average resident of this million-person shantytown, a scant two miles away from Nairobi’s city center, survives on a dollar a day or less. Despite this daunting environment, however, and located at the end of one of Kibera’s many dirt pathways, is a school that teaches local residents how to make their own movies.

Nathan Collett, an American filmmaker, traveled from his home in southern California to Kibera back in 2006 to make an 11-minute student film called Kibera Kid when he was still a film student at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. Kibera Kid tells the story of a boy who is considering a tough decision that could put him on–or pull him off–the pathway to a life of crime, and many of the locals collaborated with Nathan during the filming.

“The people that we worked with from Kibera said, ‘Thank you for making your film, but when are we going to get a chance to make our own film?’” Nathan says. He quickly came to an epiphany. “Just because you come from Kibera, just because you come from a difficult circumstance, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have the opportunity to tell your own stories.”

Related Post: When You Give 9 Students 100 Disposable Cameras…

So in 2009 Nathan created the Kibera Film School, According to Josphat Keya, the school’s former program director, “Kibera Film School is like a jewel in the dust. It’s like a gem; you are finding it where you never expect to find it. It’s about you coming from Kibera, using that camera as a medium of being able to tell your story. That’s really powerful.”

Josphat Keya says the application judges for the Kibera Film School are looking for students with passion. Photo by Zach Fannin

Josphat Keya says the application judges for the Kibera Film School are looking for students with passion. Photo by Zach Fannin

The school also prepares its students to find employment in Kenya’s film and video production industry. “We give people a high level of skills, to really prepare them for the real world,” Nathan says. “The tools are all industry standard because we believe the students should not be crippled just because of where they come from.”

Aspiring Kibera Film School students must go through a competitive application process before being admitted. A panel of three judges examines up to 80 applications and then selects the best potential students—looking, primarily, for passion. Class sizes are around 10 young adults.

Rebecca Musanga made a student film called Stepmother at the Kibera Film School. Photo by Zach Fannin

Rebecca Musanga made a student film called Stepmother at the Kibera Film School. Photo by Zach Fannin

“I have that passion in filmmaking,” student Rebecca Musanga says about her first film, Stepmother. “This was a story that I was told by my friend of what she faced.” The movie shows an angry woman who abuses her stepdaughter in painful detail. Rebecca hopes the film will help create social change “I decided to show what happens in real life,” she says. “If we don’t show what is happening, how will change come?”

Related Post: When You Give 9 Students 100 Disposable Cameras…

Some of the Kibera Film School’s operating budget was provided directly from Hollywood. “We received a grant from the Oscars,” Josphat Keya says, “and with it we organized a one-month workshop of scriptwriting with a scriptwriter from the United States.”

Dwayne Johnson-Cochran traveled from southern California in to teach the Script Power workshop at the Kibera Film School. Photo by Zach Fannin

Dwayne Johnson-Cochran traveled from southern California in to teach the Script Power workshop at the Kibera Film School. Photo by Zach Fannin

Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, a screenwriting teacher at the University of Southern California and a filmmaker in Hollywood, came to teach the scriptwriting class called Script Power. “Kibera is just another place in Africa that needs some care–and storytelling is all about care,” he says. “This is a really, really difficult place to live, and to think that people will pursue their art, any way possible, I find very, very encouraging.”

Even more encouraging, 60 percent of Kibera Film School graduates go on to get a job. This is an incredible statistic, considering that Kenya’s unemployment rate lingers around 50 percent.

Nathan is humble about the school’s accomplishments, explaining that it was created to give back to the film industry. “Kibera Film School is not going to solve Kibera’s problems; it’s not going to solve all of Kenya’s problems or Africa’s problems. Never. I’m just trying to give back, a little bit, especially to filmmakers, because it’s my area. If I was a dentist, if I was a doctor, I might come here a month a year and give free medical services, but I’m not, I’m a filmmaker so this is the way I can give back.”

Want to learn more?

Kibera Film School in Nairobi, Kenya is the only comprehensive hands-on film training and production center in an East African slum. Youth trainees atKibera Film School develop their talents, tell their stories, become role models and thereby transform their communities. Kibera Film School is open to all youth passionate about learning film.
LEARN MORE

Video produced for TruthAtlas by Zach Fannin

Related Posts

One Response to Making Movies in Africa’s Largest Slum

  1. […] Indoor plumbing, paved streets, and buildings constructed from brick and mortar are rare finds in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. The average resident of this million-person shantytown, a scant two…  […]

Leave a Reply