Kakuma Refugees Make a Movie

United Drama for Peace, a drama group from Kakuma Refugee Camp is shooting a movie.

Amos (in orange shirt) with his group members on the set of the United Drama for Peace movie.

KAKUMA, Kenya– United Drama for Peace, a drama group from Kakuma Refugee Camp is shooting a movie.

The drama group composed of 90 refugee youth has turned the camp into a mini Hollywood of sorts as they move with their filming equipment in tow, shooting various scenes of their movie in the vast landscape of the camp. The movie which is in two parts; Fight for Peace (part one) and Tribal Desire (part two), is in English and Swahili and addresses topical issues close to their hearts.

“We have always longed to shoot a professional movie for almost two years now,” Amos Bin says as he takes a break from the set. The 23 year old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo has lived in the camp for six years. He is the team leader of the group which was formed in 2014 following an incident where conflict between two South Sudanese communities affected refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. Eight deaths were reported and tension was high in the camp for several days. Rapid intervention by UNHCR, the Government of Kenya and partner agencies including dialogue with the various communities led to restoration of peace in the camp.

One of the group’s seasoned actresses, Teresa (left) in a scene during the movie shoot

One of the group’s seasoned actresses, Teresa (left) in a scene during the movie shoot

“That situation was extremely sad,” Amos says. “It was the youth that were involved in the fighting and as representatives of youth; we felt that we had a responsibility to sensitize others on peaceful coexistence.” They believed that a lot of mentality shifting was required for people to live peacefully together. As such, his drama group and five other groups (Victory Art Group, Sunshine, Sunrise, Young Africans for Better Generation (YAFBG) and Crazy Boys) drawn from various parts of the camp came together to form United Drama for Peace. The group then started performing live community theatre in the camp, spreading awareness on key issues such as Sexual and Gender Based Violence, early marriage, children’s right to education and peaceful coexistence.

In 2014 when the UNHCR Youth Innovation Fund put out a call for proposals, the group submitted an innovative proposal on how to use community theatre and drama to promote peaceful coexistence in the camp and with the host community. It was so well crafted and outlined that it won the coveted prize of USD 10,000.

“We could not believe that we were the best group from Kakuma,” Imani Rugenge, one of the cameramen in the group says. “We had been praying for this miracle and now we finally have the opportunity to make a difference in our communities.” With the prize money, the group has been able to get a good camera, microphone and other filming accessories.

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The group believes in their methodology which has proved to be effective as their plays are creative and engaging, drawing in large crowds whenever they perform. They also use music, dance and comedy to relay key messages. Old and young alike attend their shows including staff from the agencies in Kakuma.

20 year old Daudi Teresa is excited to be part of this group. “It is easy for me to understand the plot as the story is based on everyday life, she says. Teresa has acted in previous productions by Filmaid and is one of the more seasoned actors in the group.

“Winning the Youth Fund has been a blessing for them,” UNHCR Child Protection Officer Clarisse Ntampaka says. “From taking short blurry clips with their phones to having proper equipment to film with; it is a big achievement and the office in collaboration with partner agencies will continue to support such initiatives.”

The group has now started actualizing their dream of documenting their thoughts and ideas through film. The production is well organized with a cast of 30 of the best actors from the group, a director, two cameramen and well written scripts. Amos admits that developing the script was not easy. “Most of us have gone through Filmaid International’s filmmakers training program (FTP) so we wanted to do it ourselves.” They had a number of story ideas that had to be either cut down or consolidated into one proper script. It was then that they decided to have a two-part movie that would encompass all these ideas.

Imani (centre) one of the group’s cameramen with the soundman and light man on the set of the movie shoot.

Imani (centre) one of the group’s cameramen with the soundman and light man on the set of the movie shoot.

Indeed this was no mean feat as the group is a colourful and lively mix of characters from various communities including South Sudan, DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Ethiopia. The very nature of this group underscores their key message; peaceful coexistence between communities. As Amos wisely puts it, “despite our different nationalities, we are still the same…we are members of one tribe and that is the human tribe.”

Their movie will be ready in January 2016 and they are excited for the world to see their dreams come to fruition.