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/Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)