About this project
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.
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.
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.
Other Ways To Help
If you want to learn more about Abaarso School and support their mission, please visit www.abaarsoschool.org
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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