Kenyan film school students part of team in Oscar-nominated film

Watu Wote is a German-Kenyan, live-action short film on the 2015 Mandera bus attack

Some eight graduates from a film college in Kenya are awaiting the announcement of the Oscars winners this weekend.

These graduates of the Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI) in Nairobi were part of the team making a movie nominated in the category of best short live action film.

The film, called Watu Wote (or All of Us), tells the story of a terror attack on a bus in Kenya by militant group Al-Shabaab in 2015, in which Muslim passengers protected Christians. The 2017 film is directed by Katja Benrath.

The College

The short history of ADMI could itself be a script for a feelgood film.

The film school’s founder, Wilfred Kiumi, grew up in a slum in Nairobi and developed a love of film after his uncle took him to a government-funded cinema.

He worked in a barbershop to make enough money to go to college.

But his ambition was to set up a film school which would give Kenyan students the full range of skills needed to succeed in the industry.

“At first people thought I was joking when I said I was trying to set up a school, but the more I talked to people about it the more they encouraged me and connected me to others who could help,” he says.

Six years ago this month, the college welcomed its first intake of only five students.

Today, it has 350 students at a purpose-built campus in Narobi’s Central Business District, complete with well-stocked graphic design and animation labs, sound studios and post-production labs.

They study a two-year diploma which includes training in film and TV production, graphic design, journalism, sound engineering and animation, and an internship.

Putting Kenya on screen

It’s not just about changing perceptions. Wilfred says that developing the film and TV industry could make a huge economic contribution.

“Just one project is able to employ more than 100 people and the trend globally is that film crews are getting larger and big studios are increasing their budgets,” he says.

“If we can get our films to a larger market, we are talking many thousands of possible jobs. We have realized we can create content and now we need to learn how to sell it,” says Wilfred.

The school has a foundation which funds places for students from low-income backgrounds, and many of its students come from the slums of Nairobi.

“We have a lot of kids from the slums and you see the transformation in one year,” says Wilfred.

“They start getting gigs, dressing better, they change and they start hanging out with people who can develop their career.”

~Wakenya Canada


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