My first contact with the American Embassy was at a party. A young actor then, impressionable and shy as any teenager, I donned my brown stilettos from Mr. Price to go with the only black dress that I owned at the time. Having an LBD (Little Black Dress) was the only fashion rule that I adhered to. We were performing a murder mystery piece at the Lord Eroll. I had never seen such elegance in my life. The room was coloured with different races. I nearly fell a million times owing to the freshly polished floor. I did not hit the ground.
Later on we had dinner and I had to remember the many movies that I had watched; start outwards heading inwards. It went successfully though I was dying for a second serving but not at the risk of looking gluttonous. At the table, great conversations were happening around the film and Theatre industry. The need for systems was raised and the officials also mentioned their intention to push the industry to be better.
Ever had a crush on someone and you knew together, you would create magic, they just don’t know how awesome you are? In this case the Kenyan government and the relevant agencies toy with the creative industry in Kenya. They throw words like the ‘billions worth industry’, ‘million job opportunities’ and then they blue tick all the ideas. Granted, they have done a few things, like KFCB paid for all costs for some of the Zanzibar Film Festival attendees. Imagine the difference it would have made had they been involved from the beginning? Exactly.
Back to the US embassy
They came up with a crazy idea – invest in young filmmakers with transformative ideas and give them the training and the tools they need to find and tell the stories from their own city. They did and the child ‘Stories Found’ was born. Stories Found is a Documentary film workshop where hundreds of Kenyan filmmakers applied to the free Stories Found online curriculum and workshop [891 applicants to be exact.]
By the end of the almost disciplic selection process, only twelve emerging Kenyan filmmakers were selected to participate in the workshop. The selected applicants had three weeks to complete a rigorous online film making curriculum. Once the students completed the online training, Stories Found instructors met the chosen few in Nairobi, Kenya at the U.S Embassy for a five-day film making intensive with 1 Goal in mind: Find and film two stories that capture the essence of Nairobi.
Two Films, One City
The team created two docu-films: Zumari and Shoto. Titles are as Kenyan as roadside smokies. Zumari is the story of a young man in Dandora who gathers the courage to change his life and discovers peace in an unlikely place. An underdog story line sells even to a North Pole bear. Shoto is the story of an Umoja (Shout out to the hood that raised me) matatu driver who strives to take over the matatu bus industry with a promise to uphold its vibrant culture. Catch a trailer of the film project here
The 48 hour film project is good training ground for any filmmaker to let go of inhibitions and just create on a deadline. Stories Found puts a spin on that and trains filmmakers, provides the platform and the teams had five days to develop, film and edit five minute films. In a nutshell, you are pushed off the cliff and have to learn how to swim on your way down. You are a trained swimmer (filmmaker) o the water excites you.
Joan Njeri and Karanja Ng’endo were part of the amazing teams. Joan is a producer with Neolight Productions and also a stickler for logistics just in case she ever switches gears. Karanja Ng’endo is a hardcore creative who will do it even when there is no (perceived) reason to. Earlier in the year (2018) it paid off as, together with Jairus Ong’etta and Samantha Musimbi, they had their piece ‘Misfit’ feature at the Zanzibar Film Festival. Stories Found was training ground for him as he is yet to join MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, a coveted slot by many creatives. Samuel Wanjohi also among the selected twelve, has his short film Imara win the Best Documentary award 2018 in the Riverwood Academy Awards, and like Karanja it was an official selection at Zanzibar International Film Festival 2018 and competing for the ‘Best Short Film’ award.
The trickle effect of investment is grossly underrated. A little push goes into making the Likarion Wainaina and Jenniffer Gateros. Stories Found might have featured two films but they will inspire thousands. Creating these platforms is not rocket science yet it yield results and leaves an indelible mark. To everybody who participated my congratulations to you for all the work put in. Creating is a bumpy road. Each toss and shift makes the journey worth it.
Want to find your story? Here is a good place to start
The rest of the team includes:
- Brian Karani,
- Juma Adero,
- Gloriah Omondi
- Firul Maithya
- Jephtha Malelah
- Arnold Mvoi
- Vanessa Njora
- Florence Nyokabi
- Jackie Wangeci