Lupita Nyong’o isn’t the only Kenyan acquainted with Oscar-winning potential.
It was just a month ago that the German-Kenyan film ‘Watu Wote’ was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film by the American Film Academy.
The film’s producer Tobias Rosen and director Katja Benrath are both Germans from the Hamburg Film School. They heard about the Al-Shabaab attack on a bus in northern Kenya that was foiled when one Muslim man on the bus refused to disclose identities of Christians, thus saving many lives.
That act of heroism and humanity inspired them to come to Kenya, link up with Lightbox Film and Ginger Ink and create a heart-wrenching film that might again earn Kenyans an Academy award.
The scriptwriting of Watu Wote (All of Us) was headed by Julia Drache, another German who consulted with Kenyans Brian Munene and Alexander Ikawah to create a captivating story line. “Katja and Tobias originally came to Kenya to make a different film. But then they changed gears, got in touch with Lightbox’s Blamuel Iro who assembled the Kenyan cast,” says Justin Mirichii who plays James Ouma in the film.
“I play the guy who gets shot running away from the terrorists.”
Based on a real life story, the film revolves around a young woman who’s been widowed by Al-Shabaab who also killed her daughter. Jua (Adelyne Wairimu) is taking the bus to Mandera and lets her hatred of her family’s killers be known to one Muslim man, Salah Farah (Abdiwali Farrah) who tried to befriend her.
As it turns out, it’s Salah who saves her life and those of the other Christians on the bus. After the terrorists arrive, he and the other Muslims are given the option to live if they disclose the identities of the Christians. But his refusal in the face of impending death sparks similar behavior from the other Muslims.
In fact, the Muslim woman sitting next to Jua immediately covers her in a headscarf once the gun-slinging terrorists attack.
Watu Wote is a timely story about respecting the lives of our fellow human beings irrespective of their creed, race or colour.
One can only hope the Academy judges love the film as much as Kenyans do. I saw the film in Lamu where Blamwel Iro fielded a question-and-answer session for an audience appreciative of the film and especially its powerful message.