March 26, 2008

Shanty Town

SCA Faculty Member Heads Kenyan Film Workshops

By Ravneet "Sippy" Chadha

Since being introduced to Kibera by M.F.A. Nathan Collett ‘06, while he was still at USC,  Fielder has a different view of Kibera.
Young people from an African shanty town making films may seem unlikely, but not to Senior Lecturer Mary Beth Fielder, who along with the Nairobi-based Hot Sun Foundation is leading a series of film workshops for forty aspiring moviemakers from Kibera, Kenya.
Sprawling Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, was recently the scene of brutal violence following the December 2007 presidential election in Kenya. Since being introduced to Kibera by M.F.A. Nathan Collett ‘06, while he was still at USC,  Fielder has a different view of Kibera.
“In spite of some of the harshest living conditions imaginable, these kids have incredible talent and enthusiasm and they desperately want to tell their stories,” Fielder reported. “I teach storytelling for film. I hope to give them some of the tools to make films.”
“While working with Nathan on his USC thesis film Kibera Kid, I saw something really authentic. I wanted to be a part of it," Fielder said.
Collett’s 2007 Emmy Award-winning short film is the story of a 12-year old street urchin forced to choose between gang life and 
A scene from Collett's film.
the path of redemption.
"Many young filmmakers are trying to come up with the next big thing so they can get their break in the Hollywood. I understand the pressure to turn a huge investment in film school into a career. Nathan doesn’t see it that way. He wants to use film to make a difference," Fielder continued. "It’s the same with kids in Kibera. This is a chance for them to convey their deep emotional beliefs and experiences through this powerful medium. That’s what moved me to help.”
Fielder emphasized, “Now more than ever, self-expression can play a key role in the reconciliation process following the post-election violence in Kenya.”
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Programs, ArtVenture, the Kenya Film Commission and Hot Sun Foundation are supporting Fielder’s workshops in Kibera.
Collett, has been making films with youth in slums in Kenya for more than eight years. He founded Hot Sun Foundation to build a core of talented and trained youth in Kibera to develop a global first —a feature length dramatic film made in an African slum. Fielder recently joined the Kibera Kid feature film project of Hot Sun Foundation as a coproducer.