×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hot Sun warms students’ prospects

Film school allows kids to pursue their passions

NAIROBI — It’s an unlikely place for a film school, and to get to it, you’ll have to dodge wildly careening minibuses, packs of roving schoolchildren, and the occasional goat plodding its way across Nairobi’s largest and most notorious slum.

But for the students of Hot Sun Films — a production company and film school in the heart of Kibera — the chaos is just a part of daily life. And for American helmer Nathan Collett, it was the perfect place to fulfill a promise he had made five years ago.

Collett came to Kenya in 2006, while studying at the USC Film School, to lense his short pic “Kibera Kid.” During filming, he found that young Kibera residents who worked on the production were eager to pursue their own dreams of becoming filmmakers.

But most Kibera youths faced impossible odds. Few had money to pay tuition at Kenya’s top film schools; many left school at an early age to find work.

Collett promised to return to Kenya after he’d completed his studies to turn “Kibera Kid” into a feature film. And when he did, he found that he was surrounded by young men and women who shared his love of making films.

They started informally. Collett would sit around a laptop with a small group, brainstorming for script ideas on what would become the 2010 feature “Togetherness Supreme.” They received basic training in camerawork and editing — a filmmaker’s boot camp — but there was no formal structure to what they learned.

“We discovered they had some knowledge, but they didn’t have enough to actually join the industry,” says producer Mercy Murugi, co-owner of Hot Sun.

So in 2009, Hot Sun Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Hot Sun Films, launched the inaugural semester of its Kibera film school. The school offered a rigorous, six-month filmmaking course to a small group of students, with instructors drawn from the professional ranks of Kenya’s film and TV industries.

The goal, says Collett, was to give people the information they need at a reasonable cost.

Part of that, he says, is an understanding of the entrepreneurial side of filmmaking. For residents of Kibera, that means working with limitations and developing self-sufficiency.

Students are forced to ask themselves, says Collett, “What can we do from here without any support? What can we do with the technology we have?”

That technology is on par with the best in Kenya today, with state-of-the-art equipment and editing software and East Africa’s first Red camera, which Murugi says they frequently rent out to local TV productions.

The school’s success has been a modest but significant step forward for Kibera’s young filmmakers. Students have worked on local features like “Soul Boy,” by Tom Tykwer’s shingle One Fine Day, and lent technical support to foreign docu crews. One graduate has done editing work on a number of international productions. Another has moved on to work on the popular M-Net skein “Changes.”

When production wrapped on “Togetherness Supreme” last year, the crew offered free screenings in Kibera. Audience members approached Collett afterward and accused him of lying.

“They just couldn’t believe that so many people from Kibera were involved in something like this,” he says.

In its own way, he said it sounded like the highest praise.

More Film

  • 'The Apollo' Review: A Legendary Theater

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Apollo'

    You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on [...]

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content