People always asked me “Why do you want to make this film?”, “What is your intention?” And I always answered “I just want to tell an honest story… to make a film with no pretenses… no manipulations… a film that, in its purest form, bears its soul to you.” That was always the mechanical response I gave; it sounded good on paper. Besides it was a very personal story I was making. So when I embarked to develop this story, I drew heavily from my childhood. I drew from that time when I was 9 years old and I had my first cinema experience in an old shack at the edge of Kibera Slums in Kenya.
I saw Jackie Chan star in “Legend of the drunken Master” and right there and then I knew I wanted to make films. From that moment onwards, Films became my solace. Every Saturday I would go back to that shack and for 3 shillings per movie, I would let my mind be transported to other worlds. Worlds that gave me hope, excitement and fear. I also drew from my relationship with my mother; a single Mum raising 4 kids. In our eyes she was the strongest person we knew but one day I walked past her room and I heard her cry. She was broken and hurt but she had to play strong for her kids. That led me to draw heavily from when I was a teenager and I would argue with my mother, and how I would yell that I can’t wait to leave her as soon as I turned 18. Not knowing that it would have killed her.
Yes Likarion, channel that last part into the small child in your film and the cancer would be symbolic of you leaving your mother when you turn 18.
Yes Likarion, turn that time your family was homeless and you were too afraid to turn to the community for help.
Yes, turn all that into a story.
As I wove this story, poured it all in a treatment and got the writers in to take it to the next level, I never truly answered why I really wanted to make this film. That was the case until a month to filming.
I had the pleasure of visiting Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. Ward 1E, the special unit where children with terminal illnesses reside. I went expecting the worst but I was greeted by the most heartwarming, kindest children you will ever meet. There was so much life in that small ward. We chatted, laughed, cheered and shared precious moments with them.
Before we left, we played a game with the children. We were to each write what we want on a piece of paper and they would all be anonymously read out loud the following week. The children were excited and wrote everything from fast cars to meeting the President. Almost all of them wished to get better and go home except for this young child who sat next to me.
He was shy and a bit withdrawn. He didn’t want me to see what he wrote on his paper but after a little charm and persuasion, he slowly allowed me to have a peek. A part of me wishes I didn’t see. All this young child wanted was a helicopter, more Chapatis and for his mum to be happy. You see this brave young soul already knew he won’t live long. He just wanted his mother to be happy… Her Sadness was the only thing he couldn’t live with.
That emotional blow hit me and I staggered to my house, that night I cried… I stared at the script and I cried some more because I was so caught up with Directing, getting the story structure right with the writers, thinking about how to make the cinematography amazing, that I forgot that this character that I had created for this film, that I thought embodies who I was growing up was actually a real person at ward 1E and I was too selfish to realize that. I had dishonored those children. I had dishonered that young soul who sat beside me. I lay in bed that evening, ashamed. Thinking of how I shall relay to the producers that I don’t want to make this film anymore. But when I woke up the next morning,I realized that I finally had an intention for making this film. So why do I want to make this film? I just want to tell an honest story. To make a film with no pretenses; no manipulations. A film that in its purest form bears its soul, because someone somewhere has lost someone. Death has snatched that someone from you but you know that they would want you to be happy. You can be happy. Do not fear death, fear not enjoying life. The Heroes at ward 1E are enjoying theirs. So everything since that day, from the shaping of the characters, to the cinematography, to my directing, to the post production; everything I have done for this film is in honor of those little amazing angels at Ward 1E. They are the Heroes who will live forever… They are SUPA MODO.