When Nathan Collet, an American student on Fullbright Fellowship in Kenya started out to make a full length feature film on KIBERA KID, his 2006 short, little did he know the project would be adversely affected by politics. Going back to the sprawling slum in early 2008, his dream was shattered as he discovered that many of the youth he had worked with on the script had moved away due to the skirmishes occasioned by the disputed December 2007 presidential elections in Kenya. He says he therefore gathered few of the remaining youth to work on a new script that culminated in TOGETHERNESS SUPREME, a film that has in 2010 been nominated for Best Film in an African Language, Most Promising Actress, Most Promising Actor, and Best Performance by a Child Actor at the continental Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).
TOGETHERNESS SUPREME, that appears to play on the ethnic differences based on political affiliation in Kenya’s highly charged and politically polarised 2007, is crafted around the lives of an artist known as Kamau (played by Wilson Maina) , a hustler called Otieno, and Alice (played by Martha Kisaka), a preacher’s daughter.
Mercy Murugi, who produced the film, says she is pleasantly surprised that TOGETHERNESS SUPREME appealed to the AMAA jury for it to have received four nominations.
“Our aim was not just to tell the Kenyan story but we wanted to highlight what has become a common phenomenon in African political elections. Through this film we offer a beacon of hope in an unjust world and getting nominated for AMAA means that it is a story that people can identify with,” she says.
Asked about how they wish to get people to watch the film, Murugi says after the launch, which is scheduled for May 8, 2010 at the Impala grounds in Nairobi, Hot Sun Foundation will take the film on road shows to six towns around the country where they will show and host discussions to sensitise people more about what the film seeks to address.
ArtMatters.Info interviews AMAA 2010 nominess Martha Kisaka, 23 (Most Promising Actress); Wilson Maina, 23 (Most Promising Actor); and Teddy Onyango, 13 and Bill Oloo, 12 (Best Performance by a Child Actor).
Please introduce yourselves
Martha Kisaka: Born in 1987, in a family of three; two girls and a brother. I attended Ayany Primary School in Kibera where I was born and lived all my life. I proceeded to The Sacred Heart, Mukumu Girls High School in Kakamega, western Kenya.
Wilson Maina: Being orphaned after my father passed on in 1996, my younger brother and I live with my grandmother at Embakasi in Eastlands, Nairobi. I attended Ayany Primary School in Kibera and following my father’s death we moved to Embakasi where I attended Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School in Embakasi and joined Kakuswe Boys High school in eastern Kenya.
Bill Oloo: I attend Ayany Primary School and am in Class Six. I live here with my mother and my elder brother.
Teddy Onyango: I live with my parents in Kibera and I go to Joy Spring Academy where I am in Standard Five.
How do you feel to get nominated at the Africa Movie Academy?
Martha Kisaka: I actually didn’t know that our film had been submitted at any festival, so when I heard about the nominations I was surprised. I feel it is rewarding that people out there can see the potential in me as an actress, I feel honoured.
Wilson Maina: I feel challenged, inspired and motivated. I think the people who nominated me have a special reason.
Teddy Onyango: I do not know how to express my joy.
Bill Oloo: Happy and pleased with myself.
So how did you become part of Togetherness Supreme?
Martha Kisaka: I had heard of the auditions but I did not have the will to go and audition as acting is not my passion. But two weeks before the shooting began; a friend of mine who was part of the film approached me and informed me that the casting people had not found a potential person for the role of Alice. He thought I had the qualities which included a girl from the Luhya community. I gave it a try and after two days I was informed that I would take up that role.
Wilson Maina: I attended the auditions and got the opportunity to act as Kamau in the film.
Teddy Onyango: a friend to my father informed him about the film and that they were looking for children to star in the film so with the help of my father I came to the auditions and I was chosen.
Bill Oloo: My friend who works at the Hot sun Foundation informed me about this film that was looking for child actors and thought it was a good idea to give it a try.
What did you do after you got selected for the various roles?
Martha Kisaka: I knew I had to work hard because the rest of the cast had been rehearsing and to be the character that the casting people wanted me to be.
Wilson Maina: to bring out an involving character, I knew it was more than just understanding my role and internalizing the script. So I talked to many people who act and asked other people how they would react to certain circumstances in life to bring out the Kamau that the film directors and fellow actors and actresses would have expected.
Bill Oloo: I also prepared myself to be a good actor in the film.
How did it feel to act as the humble and obedient daughter of the pastor?
Martha Kisaka: it was very easy for me to act as the child of a pastor as I come from strict Christian family background. Being a Seventh Day Adventist, my mother is a woman who insists on good morals. The other role as a nurse at the hospital was not also difficult as I was a member of the St. John Ambulance during my high school life. So for me the character was partly a life I have lived.
What has changed since you featured in Togetherness Supreme?
Martha Kisaka: I have developed a passion for acting and being involved in the film has actually defined my career.
Wilson Maina: it has amplified my interest in acting and I have discovered that acting though not well paying in the country can create a change in someone’s life. From now on I will always try my luck at many other auditions whenever I hear of them.
Bill Oloo: I have come to see Kibera in a different light.
Teddy Onyango: am happy for having been part of Togetherness Supreme as my parents now trust me more and unlike before when I could not venture out to play I now have a chance to play with my friends and socialize with them. I have also gone back to school.
what were your lowest moments during the shooting period?
Martha Kisaka: during the actual shooting the directors decided to begin with the scene where I had to sing to the crowd, I was frightened at the crowd and it was a while before I gained the courage to sing to the mammoth crowd. But more depressing was the scene where I had to kiss Otieno on camera.
Wilson Maina: how to switch from one mood to another.
Teddy Onyango: I don’t remember anytime I was sad during the shooting period.
Bill Oloo: I was actually selected to act as peter but because I was late most of the time my role was changed and now I had to act as CJ instead of my initial character.
What do you do?
Martha Kisaka: before I got to act on the film I was working as a front office personnel at Rangers Hotel in Nairobi, but after the film I developed passion for film and now attend the Kibera Film School.
Wilson Maina: I have always been an artist even before I featured in the film. I sign write, compose and also sing. When am not composing songs or sign writing I run a video hall in Embakasi where I show football matches to the people.
What do you aspire to be when you grow up?
Teddy Onyango: I want to become an actor but if it does not work out I will settle for football.
Bill Oloo: I am set on becoming a musician, an actor and a footballer too.
what advice would you give to the youth who live in informal settlements?
Martha Kisaka: we all have our God given talents; instead of wait for wealthy people to employ us and give us meager salaries that we will always complain of let’s utilize our talents.
Wilson Maina: as youth we should remain focused if we are to achieve our goals, irrespective of our cultures let us unite so that we can play a big role in developing our nation.
What should people expect from you?
Martha Kisaka: That Martha is soon going to become a big household name in the film sector.
Wilson Maina: to see me gracing their TV sets soon be it through singing or acting.