Online course jumpstarts Kenyan film-making

Shoto the film is based on life of matatu driver Ken Maloba aka Shoto. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Interest in film-making has exploded among young Kenyans, hundreds of whom responded to the call that went out from an international film team called “Stories Found” in mid-2018.

The team was offering aspiring young filmmakers a chance to take an online documentary film-making course run by Atlanta-based filmmakers Bud Simpson and James Martin. Kenyans selected for the course would then take part in making a film short or two that highlighted elements of contemporary Kenyan culture.

“More than 300 Kenyans applied to take the course,” says Evie Maina, the former anchorwoman of local TV shows like KBC’s Art-itude and Arts and Culture as well as KTN’s Artistic Thursday.

“The final cut was just 14,” adds Evie who is also a producer-instructor with “Stories Found”. It was Simpson, as founder of SF and his colleague James Martin who sifted through the applicants’ ideas and made the final picks.

Explaining that every applicant had to pitch a story idea as well as send in their academic credentials, Evie says two of those ideas became the basic for making two film shorts entitled Zumari and Shoto. Both recently premiered at the Oxford Film Festival. “It was Oxford in America, not Oxford UK,” she adds.


They have both been screened elsewhere in the States. Shoto is currently up for a “Best New Media” award at the 2019 Best of NFML— New Filmmakers Los Angeles awards.

“Shoto is the nick-name of a matatu driver whose route runs from Umoja to town and back. The film follows one day in Shoto’s life,” says Evie. “In the process, it showcases many aspects of matatu culture.”

The initial idea which led to the making of Shoto is attributed to Firul Maithya and Arnold Mvoi. Zumari is also a moving story about a young street boy whose life is transformed once he gets his hands on a flute. His ‘zumari’ (Kiswahili for flute) became his “passport” out of the slums, Evie adds.

The former Kenyan TV presenter has been working with Simpson since 2016 when she helped him make the 45 minute documentary, ’A voice 4 peace’ about the Korogocho-based “Ghetto Classics” choir.

The film was funded by the US Embassy in Kenya, which also assisted the “Stories Found” project.

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