In Nairobi, over 60,000 children are living and working on the streets. At the heart of the slums, an organization called Made in the Streets offers street kids education and an opportunity to regain control of their lives. Despite the hardships these children have endured, many of these children still approach life with extraordinary joy. In "How Far I Want to Go," four of them explain why.
6 questions with How Far I Want to Go director, David Hutchinson at the half-way mark.
Friday, February 17th, 2017
1Hey David! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, how did you learn about the Made In The Streets organization and what made you want to make a documentary about it? Hey, thanks for giving me this opportunity! It's an honor to be able to share this film and spread the word about Made in the Streets (or MITS, for short) to a wider audience. I first heard about MITS when I was studying at Pepperdine. The university has a close relationship with the ministry, and a few alumni I knew had taken long-term internships with them immediately after they graduated from Pepp. During my senior year, a friend of mine named Safeena Padder was doing a photojournalism internship at MITS. In October of 2015, I put out a Facebook status message asking for ideas about potential documentary subjects, and she suggested I come out and help a few of the kids tell their stories. I got super excited about the idea, and messaged her back immediately. At first she thought I was joking, but she eventually became my co-producer. We managed to pay for my flights with crowdfunding, and I skipped class and spent Thanksgiving in Kenya to make the film out of my backpack in 10 days. I think I was drawn to the challenge of the production as much as the subject.
2How did you choose the 5 children who you would make the subject for your documentary? Well, actually, only 4 of them are kids. :) Our fifth character is Francis Mbuvi, who rose from life on the streets to become the administrator at MITS, and serves as a sort of narrator in the film. Since I had never visited Made in the Streets (or Africa) before coming to film, Safeena chose students with whom she had built close relationships during the time she had spent there, primarily on the basis of how outgoing, genuine, and articulate they were in English. She presented the concept to them long before I arrived, and when we started filming, I had meetings with them every night to talk about things they would like to include in the film. The goal was to bring them into the creative process as much as possible.
3What was the biggest challenge you faced making this film? As a white, privileged, American filmmaker, I had to grapple with understanding and embracing my role and responsibilities to the people who appear in the film. I didn't want to be another "mzungu" who came, and took, and left. I remember thinking as I went to sleep after each shooting day that 10 days wasn't nearly enough, and I felt like I owed it to MITS to come back. So I did. I returned to Kenya last October, and I'll be here until April of 2017. I live in the boys' compound at MITS, and I make lots of videos to help promote their ministry. During my time here, I've realized that a lot of what I felt a year ago was shame in my craft. I was ashamed of being able to benefit from telling someone else's story. I still struggle with that, but I think I've begun to overcome it.
4What is it you that you learned from your experience in Nairobi? My experience in Nairobi began in 2015, but it continues now. I'm typing these answers through a precarious internet connection in the MITS computer lab, where I've done most of my online work for the past three months. I'm finally beginning to feel comfortable here, and my Swahili gets a little better each day, but man--who knew three months could feel like eons! Cameras must work like a magnifying glass for culture shock, because the only way to stand out more as a white American in a Kenyan slum is to carry a camera with you. I think I was only able to recognize the shame I felt a year ago because my recent experiences intensified it. So I've been learning to find my place, to contribute something valuable to the community with my films. I've realized that solutions to poverty aren't merely material, and that as a storyteller, I have the power to cultivate something essential: empathy.
5Nairobi has over 60,000 street children. What organizations can people go to if they see this doc and want to help in some way? Great question! Nairobi is loaded with nonprofits and initiatives and charities, and I know absolutely nothing about most of them. Corruption is a huge problem in Kenya, so if anyone wants to give financial resources to an organization, I would recommend doing thorough background checks to make sure they're on the level. One of the reasons there's such a stigma against videographers in Kenya's low income areas is that corrupt organizations will often use images of poverty in their promotional materials, and then pocket the donations they receive. The only organization dedicated to street kids which I can recommend without reservation is Made in the Streets--but of course, I'm a little biased. :) To learn more about MITS, viewers can check out our website or our Vimeo page: vimeo.com/madeinthestreets.
6What's next? So much. In addition to the content I make for MITS while in Kenya, I hope to complete two short docs, each with a run time of 20-30 minutes. I have great characters for both of those projects, and we're moving forward into serious production now. But the project I'm most excited about is currently unfolding back in the States. I've been in touch with a family in Boulder whose son is getting ready to graduate from high school and begin to find his place in the world as a person with special needs. This guy has had a pretty profound influence on his fellow high school students, and I think his story has a lot of potential to open people's eyes to the unique strengths and challenges of the special needs community. The only problem is, I'm not due to return to the US until 2 weeks before his graduation, so I'm trying to find the resources to fly out for a couple of weeks in February and March.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time. The film is about the evolution of a couple's relationship, and was shot in three different countries over the course of a decade.
The film with the most fans wins $1,000
For 2017 we are moving on from screening feature films and will be showcasing shorts.
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