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Feature-length documentary about five Somali Muslim students pursuing dreams of education in America
Feature-length documentary about five Somali Muslim students pursuing dreams of education in America
299 backers pledged $43,758 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$43,758

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The story of five Somali students at a moment that could change their lives and the future of their country, forever

Why This Matters Now More Than Ever

We set out to share the journeys of five students from the failed state of Somaliland who hoped to achieve the impossible by getting into American universities---a feat that hadn't been accomplished for 30 years. But the recent travel ban in America added a sobering new chapter to their saga. Now, even if these students are successful, their dreams could still be shattered. 

As the legal battle over the travel ban wages on, it's critical to share the students’ inspirational stories now more than ever. We can do our part by demonstrating everything these students would contribute to our country and by encouraging productive discourse in communities and college campuses across the nation. 

The ultimate goal for our team is to find wide distribution and popular screening venues, like film festivals, for these students' stories.

The Story

Abaarso School rises up past the rocks and acacia trees in the middle of the Somaliland desert---an oasis. It’s the lone school in the country where students pursue dreams of higher education in America. Farah, Abdisamad, Roda, Amaal, and Mustafa each wish to address a different failing in society so they apply to US schools and universities with the hopes of their families, friends, and country on their shoulders. 

Abaarso was started by an American with no experience in education. Jonathan Starr shut down his Wall Street hedge fund and recruited a team of unproven young teachers to work with the Somali students. Just as Starr felt that Abaarso was on the cusp of greatness, elements of society conspired against the school to cast the students’ futures in doubt. 

  

 

 

 

    

Statement From The Co-Director

Co-Director Harry Lee

I left my entire world behind and moved to Somaliland in 2010. Working at Abaarso every day until I was bleary-eyed, the school became my life. I loved teaching alongside committed volunteers and the students inspired me with their endless grit and determination. The kids had few privileges in life but worked hard to take advantage of every opportunity. As a school, we endured countless injustices and frustrations. We dealt with threats, militias, specious rumors, and corruption but this only galvanized the students who shocked the country by earning scholarships to US universities including MIT.   

After three years in Somaliland, I recruited my friend Ben Powell, a DC-area filmmaker, to make this documentary with me. We wanted to film amazing students like Farah, Amaal, Abdisamad, Mustafa, and Roda at what we believed could be a turning point in the country’s history. This potential influx of Somali leaders, educated at world-class institutions, could spell a new era for Somaliland. But I knew these students faced pressures unlike any I’d seen in American schools. Our Producer Kate Griendling helped us dig deep into the students’ family circumstances, responsibilities, and dreams. We captured some special moments that will only grow in significance over time. Now, we want to do the students’ stories justice by making the best documentary possible. 

Interviews on Abaarso campus
Interviews on Abaarso campus

 

Filming Amaal as she works on her application
Filming Amaal as she works on her application

Progress and Needs

After years of filming, including 5 trips to Somaliland and dozens of shoots in the US, and a six-month edit, we are nearly finished with our feature-length documentary. We will use the money from this Kickstarter campaign for post-production finishing services including color correction, online edit, audio mixing, archival footage, and more. With your help we could finish the film by Summer 2017!

  • Color Correction = $8,000
  • Online Edit = $2,000
  • Audio Mixing = $11,000
  • Archival Footage = $8,000
  • Additional Editing = $3,000
  • Additional Music Cues = $2,000
  • Administrative = $1,000
  • Total = $35,000

As a team, we've practiced tremendous fiscal responsibility throughout the project. We were discerning in our spending and agreed to forego payments for our time, work, and resources over the years. Our promise to you is that we will use your contributions wisely to make a great film.

Additional Info

 

 

 Our Team

 

 

 

Other Ways To Help

If you want to learn more about Abaarso School and support their mission, please visit www.abaarsoschool.org

We would love for you to share our project and the students' stories by joining us on Facebook, Twitter, or by visiting our Website

 

Risks and challenges

We made sure to minimize the risk to all of you by waiting until we were nearly finished with the entire project before bringing our documentary to the Kickstarter community. We have completed all filming and the edit. Now we just need that final push to finish post-production.

We are extremely grateful for the unfettered access Abaarso provided during this filming. Words can't express our gratitude for the Abaarso students who trusted us with their stories.

There have been a million challenges in making this documentary film. We fronted the money for production ourselves and 'roughed it' in terms of our transportation and accommodations. Our primary filming took place in the middle of the desert in Somaliland with irregular electricity (fun for data transfers and battery charging) and no nearby stores to pick up spare equipment. Every part of the filming process presented new challenges and we had a blast overcoming them together.

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    THANK YOU

    Our sincere appreciation for supporting the project. We'll send you updates and give you our best virtual high-five and a shout out on Twitter or Facebook!

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    DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

    The real deal and the culmination of years of work:

    Get a digital download of SOMALILAND the documentary film

    Includes:
    • Digital download of the Film
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    DIGITAL DOWNLOAD -- FILM AND SOUNDTRACK

    We'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, AND include a special thanks to you in the film credits

    This beautiful original soundtrack is by rising star Will Bedford. Will is a professional composer based out of the UK who used numerous different influences to create the score for this film including traditional Somali bantu music

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    • Soundtrack download
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    SIGNED SOMALILAND FILM POSTER

    We'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, include a special thanks to you in the film credits PLUS an official SOMALILAND poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Soundtrack download
    • Special Thanks in the Credits!
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    ADDED 2/17-AUTOGRAPHED ABAARSO MEMOIRS

    NEW REWARD! Receive an autographed hardcover copy of Abaarso founder Jonathan Starr's new memoirs, "It Takes a School". This tells the story of his founding Abaarso School in Somaliland and focuses on the influential first students who paved the way for others

    We'll also send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, include a special thanks to you in the film credits, and an official SOMALILAND poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Autographed memoirs "It Takes a School"
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Special Thanks in the Credits!
    • Soundtrack download
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
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    SPECIAL GUESTS TO WASHINGTON DC PREMIERE

    Receive two (2) tickets to be our special guests at the Washington DC Premiere of Somaliland! This will give you priority seating at our theatrical premiere in DC as well as invites to the after-party

    In addition we'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, and an official SOMALILAND poster signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Two (2) tickets to Washington DC Premiere!
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Soundtrack download
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
    • Special Thanks in the Credits!
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    SKYPE CALL WITH DIRECTORS AND STUDENT

    Have a Skype call with Ben, Harry, and one of the students from the film to discuss what it was like to make the documentary. Hear the student's stories firsthand and make a real connection after seeing him/her onscreen

    In addition we'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, include a special thanks to you in the film credits, and an official SOMALILAND poster signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Skype call with a student and the directors!
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
    • Soundtrack download
    • Special Thanks in the Credits!
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    LUNCH WITH FILMMAKER AND STUDENT

    Have lunch with an Abaarso student and either Harry, Ben, or Kate. Hear the student's stories in person and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience! (Limited to DC, New York, Boston metropolitan areas -- ask about other locations)

    In addition we'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, include a special thanks to you in the film credits, and an official SOMALILAND poster signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Lunch with a student and filmmaker!
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
    • Soundtrack download
    • Special Thanks in the Credits!
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    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT

    Welcome to the team! With an Associate Producer Credit you will be an official part of our filmmaker team. We'll announce your presence on our Facebook page, list you on our IMDB credits, and your name will show up onscreen in the film credits

    Our team will set up a phone call with you to discuss your interest and potential role in the rest of our filmmaking process

    In addition we'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, and an official SOMALILAND poster signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Associate Producer Credit
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
    • Soundtrack download
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    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT

    Welcome to the team! With an Executive Producer Credit you will be an official part of our filmmaker team. We'll announce your presence on our Facebook page, list you on our IMDB credits, and your name will show up onscreen in the film credits

    Our team will set up a phone call with you to discuss your interest and potential role in the rest of our filmmaking process

    In addition we'll send you a digital download of the film, a digital download of the SOMALILAND soundtrack by Will Bedford, and an official SOMALILAND poster signed by the directors

    Includes:
    • Executive Producer Credit
    • Digital download of the Film
    • Movie poster (16" x 20") signed by the directors!
    • Soundtrack download
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Funding period

- (30 days)