Thursday, February 25, 2010

Explosions Rock Kibera! More news at Eleven.

Planet Earth was my place of birth
Born to be the SOLE controller of the universe
Besides the part of the map I hit first
Any a rhyme that I can adapt when it gets worst
The rough gets going, the going gets rough
When I start flowing, the mic might bust
The next state, I shake from the power I generate
People in Cali used to think it was earthquakes
- Eric B. and Rakim, "In The Ghetto"

A series of explosions have recently rocked and shook the foundations of Kibera, leaving a powerful trail of destruction in it's wake. Shortly after a great interview with Sururu and his crew, who together form the hip hop crew "The Hustlers", a simple freestyle performance outside Sururu's home turned into a barrage of intercontinental ballistic missiles of words and rhymes that both stunned and shocked, resulting in a massive explosion of Hip Hop that came suddenly and without any warning. Casualties are still mounting....more details to come, please stand by.
Photo above taken by Peter Opudo.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Millicent, Mohammed and Chuck D.

"We don't see the people who are doing real things getting enough props. We often see politicians who are everywhere but nowhere at the same goddamn time. You know the kind of person: You see them everywhere on television but nowhere in front of your face."
Chuck D., Public Enemy

Meet Millicent and Mohammed.
Millicent works at a health clinic in Kibera that runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Not only that, she is a single mom and raising her young child alone. Her one room home is pretty deep into Kibera, so she makes the 45 minute trek daily to treat fellow Kiberans. Most of the illnesses are related to infections from drinking unsafe water. Her marriage broke up because her husband was from a different tribe, and things got ugly around post election time, so they are no longer together.
Mohammed volunteer coaches a Kiberan girl's football team. When I asked what tribe he belonged too, he simply stated, "I don't believe in tribes, I am a proud Kenyan."

When I asked them where else would they live if they had the choice, both of them replied they would not live anywhere else.

In other news, I have re-uploaded the podcast that is slightly better quality and less distorted. I am new to the podcast thing, so hope you can forgive me. Using Audacity, which is free to download in case you're interested.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Matatu Express: The Podcast

I just finished making the first audio podcast for Matatu. I recorded audio from the journey into Kibera, all sound is recorded on location in Kibera to give listeners a sense of the sights and sounds of Kibera. Hope you enjoy it. Click here to listen to the podcast. Picture above taken by Peter Opudo.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DJ Jah Hill!

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality . Wake Up and Live!”
-Bob Marley

Day 3 of Matatu. Interviewed DJ Jah Hill, who has a radio show on Kibera’s only radio station Pamoja fm, which means “Together” in Swahili. Jah Hill is simply a legend in the Soweto district of Kibera, where he resides. We covered alot of ground today, walked for probably a total of 10 kilometers, into Soweto where Jah lives, then into the outskirts, and up on the surrounding hills where there was a school in one of the many buildings that were burned down during the post election violence. Every where we went, people would call out “JAH HILL!” I knew I was in the presence of a true celebrity. We then proceeded back into Kibera, uphill, past the railroad tracks and were just about to go into the radio station when we ran across the station manager, who despite having a family emergency was gracious enough to do a very quick interview. We then got to the station where Jah went on air live. What a day! Thought I was doing one interview today, ended up doing about 6. Had to use the backup battery and slip in a new tape. Must have met about 30 amazing residents of Kibera who were all generous with their time and gracious over all. Most of all though I have to give maximum respect to DJ Jah Hill for his time, his talent, and an amazing freestyle rap he gave on the outskirts of Soweto. Respect Jah Hill!
Photo above taken by Peter Opudo

Sunday, February 7, 2010

On Overcoming Stage Fright (do it anyway)

"Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it."
-Mark Twain

Day 2 of production happened on Friday. Interviewed James for a second time, then interviewed the Chairman of his orphanage organization, and after that shot the meeting itself. The shoot presented some technical difficulties, mainly to do with audio issues. The thing about Kibera is that it’s a pretty noisy place, as there are so many people jammed into a small area. There is music, there is singing, there are planes overhead that rattle all of the structures that are made out of thin sheets of metal, and there are kids. Lots of kids. Kids that like to scream, to laugh, to shriek and to holler. All of this can be a major challenge when recording audio, and I am trying to take steps to tackle this issue. The interviews themselves went pretty well, and my guide Peter remarked that I appeared more comfortable and “less nervous” than my first day in Kibera. Damn, I thought to myself, I thought I had my cool as a cucumber poker face persona nailed. I guess that’s why I am a director and not a performer. I suck at acting. When I was breaking everything down and packing my gear up, this kid came over to ask me questions about what I was doing. I told him I was making a movie about young people in Kibera. He said he didn’t have a job and asked what he could do to help. So I told him he could do an interview. I gave him one, and a couple of bucks for his time. I have to give this guy credit and a shout out, because I could tell he was kind of nervous and embarrassed to come up to me, but it took guts and I have to give him props for that. Thanks Edwin.
Photo above taken by Peter Opudo.

Friday, February 5, 2010

i can't get no sleep

“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own.”
Susan Sontag

Day one of production of Matatu Express. Made it deeper into Kibera for an interview with James (pictured above) who runs an organization that helps protect orphans in Kibera. Also made contact with DJ Jah Hill, who I will be interviewing next week. I am beginning to be stunned and amazed by the passion, creativity and collaboration within the streets of Kibera. James lives with 2 of his brothers and 2 friends in his home which is about 6 feet by 6 feet. He has a bed, a small coffee table, and 2 chairs. No running water or electricity. The interview went well. The further you go into Kibera the more hardship you see. The roads are really a labyrinth of mud and garbage with a river of sewage running in the center. I got home in the early evening and we had some people over for dinner, it was fun for awhile. Then later when I found myself in bed, I had trouble sleeping. It was raining outside, and I kept listening to it. I kept thinking about James and his 4 houseguests sleeping in that tiny space, and I could almost hear the sound the rain must be making right now coming down on that tin roof. It’s four am and I can’t get no sleep.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

T.I.A baby

"Had to stop at a red light
Looking in my mirror not a jacker in sight
And everything is alright...
Drunk as hell but no throwing up
Half way home and my pager still blowing up
Today I didn't even have to use my A.K.
I got to say it was a good day."
-Ice Cube, "It was a good day."

Spent yesterday working on a budget for Matatu and researching funding options – my least favourite aspect of filmmaking – albeit a necessary one, and one I am striving towards mastering, or at least improving on. Six years of Kraft Dinners have inspired me to do better.
Got up bright and early this morning to head to Ignite to get some wireless access. A normally 10 minute drive became an hour of bumper to bumper traffic filled with cars cutting each other off, triple passing on a single lane road. A matatu with the name painted on the rear windscreen “Everything is in God’s Hands” accelerated madly uphill into oncoming traffic. Perhaps miraculously, no casualties ensued. The lord works in mysterious ways, after all.
Made it to the office only to discover the power is down (another notorious outage). Three hours later and still nothing. Fired up the blackmarket Ipod (purchased on the streets of Nairobi for $20) and tuned into “homeboyz radio” on 91.5 FM, for a great old school classics show. In Nairobi they play good hip hop. Because of the lack of advertisers, DJs play what they want to hear, or what the audience tells them to play, not the top 40 shoddy generic tunes the record companies think you want to hear. Six hours later still no power. I shrug. I no longer care. I have Biggie, Tupac, Ice Cube and lil’ Kim to keep me company.
I head home by foot this time, past the vast coffee fields under the hot sun in a perfect, cloudless aqua blue sky. It’s a half hour walk, but it feels good. It’s downhill. Back home now, I grab a cold Tusker from the fridge. I laugh as one of the dogs jumps on the patio table and licks my hand trying to console me. I can’t help but remember my favourite line uttered by DiCaprio in Blood Diamond.
“This is Africa.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Journey Into Kibera

My first day of location scouting in Kibera went extremely well. My guide Peter, a longtime resident, gave a great initial tour. I put up some video of it on matatu express. Click here to watch the new clips. Bear in mind, they are compressed from 24P for the web, so it's normal there is slight choppiness. Also click here to check out some new pictures. This upcoming week is all about research and casting potential interview subjects. To say that I am pleased and excited would be a great understatement. I'm just really grateful for all the help I'm getting from everyone involved. More soon.

We have Ignition.

Just thought I would give a shout out to the good folks at Ignite Consulting. They have been kind enough to provide equipment and wireless internet service for Matatu Express. As I've mentioned before, the signal I have where I am staying is too low for uploading files, so I make the journey into Ignite every day or so.