Eastleighwood Shooting. Source: Eastleighwood Facebook page
CAIRO - 30 May 2017: Amid rising political and social tension halting Somali community, in Kenya, ambitious film industry emerges catering young Somali talents that targets Somali audiences globally. Eastleighwood Film Production presents a new face to Somali youngsters and establishes hope in a conflict-dominated country.
The Somali-language movies are based and produced in Eastleigh, Nairobi and aim to achieve peace, act as an educational endeavor, and encourage cultural integration and adequate governance policies. According to their website, the new film industry seeks to promote the culture of Somali – speaking community in Kenya, shedding light on vital issues such as famine, drug abuse, AIDS, early marriages, and Female Genital Mutilation, among others.
Established in 2011 by Burhan Iman during a time when the Kenyan defense forces approached Somalia to fight Al-Shabab, Eastleighwood is known for featuring multi-disciplinary activities such as film production, songs, documentaries, and even paintings.
“A small Hollywood in Kenya” Eastleighwood’s PR and Media Liason officer Abdihakim Bare Hassan describes the newly recognized film industry. Hassan speaks to Egypt Today about the challenges faced in film production as well as achievements and future goals in directing young talents.
“We host annual cultural days when all tribes are gathered to display their personal cultural activities. Eastleighwood seeks also to show how cultures are changing in all communities in parallel with technological advancements worldwide,” Hassan told Egypt Today.
Hassan added that the film industry embarked on a goal to rejoice all tribes in the country and tell their version of stories instead of the propaganda promoted in media about those communities.
Eastleigwood teaches and trains photography, music, painting, graphic designing, filming, and editing to 3,000 young motivated talents in efforts to encourage them to seek a decent living according to Hassan. The office offer trainings and operates through volunteer work in which workers achieve virtual projects.
Surviving against all odds
The movie production agency has previously achieved ‘The Learner’, a feature film that raises awareness on the effects of dating among teens in schools and its impact on their educational process. Another feature film, ‘Mistaken’ revolves around the idea of human trafficking and its negative effect on society.
“The films depicts how many young people in Africa lose their lives in human trafficking which is operated by heartless cartels who make money from such acts. ‘Mistaken’ portrays a lady in Mogadishu who is lured into marrying a Kenyan man who later delivers her to human traffickers,” said Hassan.
Eastleighwood has long been haunted by threats, as one of the major challenges of existence, where the lives of members have been jeopardized on several occasions.
“There have been attempts carried out to kill our members by unknown people who felt challenged by what we produced; Iman, the founder himself was being followed by a man who unsuccessfully tried to stab him on several occasions since 2014 which led to his relocation to Kileleshwa for his own safety,” added Hassan.
Working with moderate tools and equipment, Eastleighwood relies on funds from local businesses and volunteers to boost their budget and carry out their activities. The film industry basis money from members and friends as the budget is used “innovatively,” according to Hassan.
Despite the challenges, Eastleighwood is currently filming ‘Arawelo’ series, a fiction series on a Somali folk queen and plan to expand its movies’ portfolio in the upcoming period.
Eastleighwood-based movies were not screened outside the borders of Kenya; however the film agency plans to screen ‘Mistaken’ in London and USA where the agency’s other headquarters are located.
Hassan also added that the movies were screened in Kenyan festivals, despite lack of international exposure, such as Nairobi Business Expo, the Somali Independence Day at Somali embassy, and the Faith and Insecurity Forum.
“Eastleighwood seeks to change the world impression on Somali Community by showcasing the beautiful culture that is built on caring and sharing through telling Somali stories different than the ones portrayed in western media,” concluded Hassan.
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