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A documentary shot over 12 years about the hopes and dreams of five orphans struggling to reach adulthood in Kenya's Mathare slum.
A documentary shot over 12 years about the hopes and dreams of five orphans struggling to reach adulthood in Kenya's Mathare slum.
287 backers pledged $31,404 to help bring this project to life.

About

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I spent the better part of a decade traveling back and forth to Kenya to film a group of children growing up at the Good Samaritan Children’s Home, an orphanage in Nairobi’s Mathare slum. I am now finishing the film, tentatively titled The Mathare Project, and I launched this campaign to help me get to the next stage in the post-production process.

I first filmed at Good Samaritan in 2001 and made a documentary called Orphans of Mathare. From 2003-2008, I filmed in Kenya four times per year, following the same group of kids I met in 2001 from their early teenage years to young-adulthood. I wanted to show how poverty, disease, violence, and bad governance affected these kids’ lives over many years.

I also filmed the woman who started the orphanage, Mercy "Auntie" Thuo, as she worked to help hundreds -- probably thousands -- of children in the slums get shelter, clothing, food, and education. She was tireless and had minimal help from anyone outside Mathare, Kenyans and foreigners alike.

Some of the children in the film made it through high school but could not afford college. Two boys joined up with gun and drug dealers because they couldn’t get better jobs. One of the girls never finished high school because she got pregnant. She had three children before she was twenty-one. Most months she couldn’t afford electricity because she had to pay for food for her children. All of the people in the film lived through unspeakable ethnic violence triggered by greedy politicians fighting for control of the government during rigged elections.

Despite all these challenges, somehow Auntie helped these children and young adults survive and kept them hopeful for a better future.

I filmed all of these stories and more. You can see a sample by watching the trailer. As best as I know, there is no other documentary that explores poverty in Kenya – and probably Africa -- quite like this one. The Mathare Project is an extended study of the complex lives of children living through some of the most intractable issues of our time and of the one woman who tries to help them.

It has been five years since I last filmed at Good Samaritan. I stopped filming because, despite raising a significant amount of money to pay for school for the orphans (you can still help pay for school here), the children in the film got frustrated that I could not do more to support them. Filming, and the project itself, became untenable.

I have since gone to graduate school in international affairs, finished another film, and gotten a “real job.” I have also been back to Kenya twice to visit Good Samaritan, most recently in April, and reconnected with the people in the film. The emotional distance I have from five years not filming will help me, I think, tell a clearer, more powerful story. My study and work in international affairs has given me a sharper understanding of the issues at play.

After five years away from the project, it is now time for me to shoot an epilogue and complete the film.

I hope to raise $30,000 to pay for full translation of the footage (the 400 hours of footage are in seven different languages), one additional filming trip to Kenya, and hiring an editor for two months so that I can produce a longer sample that will enable me to receive grants and other finishing funds. Any money raised beyond the $30,000 goal will mean less time applying for grants and more time for editing. The total project budget is about $200,000.

Your support is critical to helping this story get told. Much of your contribution is tax deductible. Please consider sharing this project with friends and on Facebook and Twitter. The more people who know about the project the more likely we are to succeed. Thank you for your support in helping me tell this critical story.

Risks and challenges

The amount of footage and the scope of the project makes it seem overwhelming at times. However, I have shown a commitment to completing this project over so many years -- while simultaneously completing other projects -- that I am confident I can finish the Mathare Project.

I also have a great team committed to helping me finish the film.

Michel Negroponte has been a co-producer since the very beginning of the project. www.michelnegroponte.com/

Shravan Vidyarthi is co-producing the film and has been a critical Kenyan partner on the project. www.shravanvidyarthi.com/

Emily O'Brien has signed on to edit the film. She did a fantastic job editing "Voyage to Amasia." http://emilyobrien.com/

Kyle Gilman is the post-production supervisor for this massive project. http://www.kylegilman.net/

Zachary Taylor and Eric V. Hachikian will be doing music and sound design. www.evhachikian.com/

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $3 or more About $3

    POSTCARD: Receive a signed postcard from "Orphans of Mathare" (the first documentary I made with the kids in "The Mathare Project" -- see update #10 for the image). This reward level is designed to build an audience and community around the film so that as many people as possible can be involved. Every little bit of support helps and is greatly appreciated.

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    Pledge $12 or more About $12

    CD: Receive a soundtrack CD from my previous film "Voyage to Amasia."

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    DVD: Receive a DVD copy of "The Mathare Project."

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    DVD & CD: Receive a DVD copy of "The Mathare Project" and "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD will ship upon completion of the film.)

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    BLU-RAY: Receive a Blu-ray copy of "The Mathare Project."

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    BLU-RAY & CD: Receive a Blu-ray copy of "The Mathare Project" and the "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film.)

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    THANK YOU (DVD): Receive a "Thank you" in the credits of the film plus a DVD copy of "The Mathare Project" and "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $35 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    THANK YOU (Blu-ray): Receive a "Thank you" in the credits of the film plus a Blu-ray copy of "The Mathare Project" and "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    THANK YOU 2: Receive a "Thank you" in the credits of the film and on the Blu-ray/DVD packaging plus receive a "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD and your choice of a Blu-ray or DVD of the finished film. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    NEW YORK HARBOR SAILING TRIP: To save money while I was shooting the film, I lived on an old wooden sailboat in Jersey City. The boat is still there and I sail it all the time. For this reward, I will take you and 5 other backers (who all promise to be interesting) on a three-hour New York Harbor sailing trip. (You'll need to get yourself to New York. If you would like to bring a friend, pledge $300 at this reward level.) Plus you will receive a "Thank you" in the credits of the film and on the Blu-ray/DVD packaging, a "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, and your choice of a Blu-ray or DVD of the finished film. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    PREMIERE: Receive an invitation to the premiere of the film (you will need to get yourself there) and all associated pre-, after-, after- after-, and after- after- after- parties. Plus receive a "Thank you" in the credits of the film and on the Blu-ray/DVD packaging plus receive a "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD and your choice of a Blu-ray or DVD of the finished film. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    KENYA TRIP ASSISTANCE: Receive assistance from local experts planning a trip to Kenya, including help planning a safari, a tour of Nairobi, and trip to the Good Samaritan Children's Home. Plus receive the "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray of the finished film, and an invitation to the premiere. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    SCREENING: Receive a screening of "Orphans of Mathare" (my previous film about the group of children in "The Mathare Project"), "Voyage to Amasia" (my recent film about the Armenian Genocide) or "The Mathare Project" (when it's complete) at the school or organization of choice. I will Skype in to answer questions, or will attend a Q&A in the DC or New York area or anywhere else if you can provide necessary transportation and lodging. Plus receive the "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray of the finished film, and an invitation to the premiere. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    PRIVATE NEW YORK HARBOR SAILING TRIP: I'll take you and 5 of your friends on a three-hour New York Harbor sailing trip. (You'll need to get yourselves to New York.) Plus you will receive a "Thank you" in the credits of the film and on the Blu-ray/DVD packaging, a "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, and your choice of a Blu-ray or DVD of the finished film. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: receive credit as "Associate Producer" in the end credits of the film. We'll also take you and 5 friends sailing. Plus receive "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray of the finished film, assistance with travel to Kenya, and an invitation to the premiere. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING WORKSHOP: Receive a one-day documentary filmmaking workshop for the school or organization of your choice. Transportation and lodging will need to be provided outside the DC or New York area. Plus receive the "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray of the finished film, and an invitation to the premiere. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    CO-PRODUCER: receive credit as "Co-Producer" on screen in opening titles and on film packaging. I'll also take you and 5 friends sailing. Plus receive "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray of the finished film, assistance with travel to Kenya, and an invitation to the premiere. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: receive credit as "Executive Producer" on screen in opening titles and on film packaging and advertising. Spend a day with the filmmaker shooting in Mathare (you'll need to get yourself to Kenya, but we'll help you plan your trip.) I'll take you and 5 friends sailing. Plus receive "Voyage to Amasia" soundtrack CD, your choice of a DVD or Blu-ray of the finished film, assistance with travel to Kenya, and an invitation to the premiere. (Soundtrack will ship in January 2014, DVD/Blu-ray will ship upon completion of the film. Amount over $50 is tax-deductible.)

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    Pledge US$ 7,500 or more About US$ 7,500

    PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: Floating Films (my production company) will make a short promotional video for the non-profit organization of your choice. (You or the organization will need to provide transportation from Washington, DC. Please contact me before pledging to discuss details. The entire contribution is tax-deductible.)

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Funding period

- (29 days)