iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Ruth Starkman

Ruth Starkman

Posted: March 7, 2011 02:25 PM

Togetherness Supreme: Kenyan Youth, Hipness and Hope on Screen


Nathan Collett's new feature film Togetherness Supreme offers a bright, young, film school-hip view into Kenya's dark political and social struggles. Funded by Collett's Hot Sun Foundation, the film showcases locals behind and in front of the camera and is based on a true story of the violent aftermath of Kenya's 2007 elections in Africa's largest slum, Kibera.

Last October, at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Togetherness Supreme was described as "Africa's slum dog without the millionaires." Surely there are many comparisons to Danny Boyle's multi-Oscar, multi-award-winning 2008 Slumdog Millionaire. A coming of age story in Kibera, where over half a million slum dwellers struggle to carve out a life while occupying just 6% of the land, Togetherness Supreme follows the lives of three characters from different tribes.

This film also invokes the earlier and equally great, City of God. Like Fernando Meirelles' lively 2002 portrait of the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Togetherness Supreme beguiles its viewers with local soundtrack and color. It adapts techniques like the speed-shifting between scenes and between the slum and posh urban city, and there is even a food preparation scene resembling that opening of City of God, except the chicken is a rooster, who has no intention of either running away or being cooked. Just as surely, in Togetherness Supreme a love triangle broils between rival friends Kamau, the artist and Otieno, the hustler, for the preacher's daughter Alice. Both plots also turn on a bitter violent turf war that threatens the entire community.

Unlike the Brazilian film however, this film from Kenya portrays a slum that never seems to have had wide-open spaces before it turned into a shantytown with a looming garbage pile full of human and animal scavengers and 14 different villages teeming with tribal tensions and political unrest. Moreover, the turf war isn't over drugs, though there are a couple scenes of the disaffected hero, Kama and his rival Oti smoking marijuana and praising Bob Marley. This film is about tribal tensions and the challenges of a new generation in Kenya.

Kama belongs to the majority Kikuyu tribe, which controls most of the property and the government, whereas rival tribes Luo, Luhya and to a lesser extent, Kamba are usually the tenants, who face constant threats of eviction and everyday minority uncertainty. Kama nevertheless joins the minority party when Oti invokes the great reggae redemptionist in the name of politics--"Even Bob Marley supported politicians." Following Oti, Kama becomes a card-carrying member of the local political opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), tries to hide his Kikuyu identity, devotes his artistic abilities to the movement and gains recognition.

Most of the film builds up to the election and to Oti's efforts to seduce Alice as political chaos descends upon the slum. Togetherness Supreme leaves its viewers in the aftermath of the violence and shows the hero Kama devoting himself to the Kibera youth. The film ends on a redemptive note and invites viewers to look toward Kenya's future. Indeed, reports on the 2010 election last August refer to Togetherness Supreme as a film that points to positive political changes that arose in the aftermath of 2007.

The film ending also draws a parallel to the Kibera Film School, founded by Collett and his partner/producer Mercy Murugi after they held a short seminar for media students amid the political tensions of 2008. Togetherness Supreme followed Collett's short, Kibera Kid.

Having just celebrated its second graduating class in February 2011, the Kibera Film School provides scholarships for the local Kibera youth to learn filmmaking and social media skills that will help them enter the Kenyan as well as international work force. Murugi, the school's director, attracts filmmakers and other professionals for short visits to teach directing, producing, editing, writing, acting and sound. Currently, the school only has one donor, Africalia from Belgium, and cannot yet afford to hire teachers full time, but many local and international professionals visit the school and share their real world experiences with the students. Both Kibera students and directors are excited to see their efforts reach a larger world audience as Togetherness Supreme tours the United States and other countries.

Togetherness Supreme won "Best International Film" at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2011 in February. It opened in San Jose on March 5, 2011 and will screen on the University of San Francisco campus this Tuesday night, March 8, 2011 from 8-10pm.

MORE SHOWINGS:

Cinequest: San Jose
March 10 at 7.15pm at Camera 12
March 11 at 8.45 at Camera 12

Cleveland Int'l Film Festival:
Saturday, March 26 | 9:20 AM
Sunday, March 27 | 9:05 PM
Monday, March 28 | 2:20 PM
(for more information- http://www.clevelandfilm.org)