Mon, Oct 30, 2006 - Page 9 News List

African trio takes World Bank to task

AFP , NAIROBI

A trio of slum-dwelling former street children turned-filmmakers from Kenya were set to confront World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz this week about development in Africa for a documentary they are shooting.

Taking a page from the US pundit who has woven conversations with the rich, powerful and famous into scathing celluloid social commentaries, the three will quiz Wolfowitz on his views for their 30-minute film Different Perspectives.

"We're going to interview him about development in Africa and what role the World Bank is playing in it and how they're going to ensure development is successful," cameraman Nick Kori said.

"We've only got 10 minutes with him so we have to make it count," said the 17-year-old, who lived on the mean streets of Nairobi for two years before joining a vocational program and learning how to make films.

Kori and his colleagues, Henry Kangethe and Elizabeth Nyawira -- all primary school dropouts -- spoke before leaving for Rome for last week's World Bank-sponsored development forum, where they were due to interview Wolfowitz.

Their project will look at the trio's perspective on Kenya's progress in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 among other targets.

According to the UN Development Program report, Kenya's potential for achieving these goals on time is "very low."

How the World Bank and other agencies can help Kenya and its people meet the deadline is among the top of questions the filmmakers plan to ask Wolfowitz, a former Pentagon official and Iraq hawk whose neo-conservative leanings had put him at odds with many in the development community.

"Wolfowitz will see that even in the slums in Africa, even people that are not educated can make a difference," Kangethe, 23, said. "But we need help, we need aid."

Nyawira, 17, rounds out the documentary team from a filmmaking program sponsored by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF).

For Kangethe, the program has been "a life changing experience" after spending seven years on the streets of Dagoretti, a sprawling slum 10km west of downtown Nairobi that is home to an estimated 240,000 people.

"I used to eat from trash cans, beg for money and steal food," said Kangethe of his life on the street after he left home because of the routine beatings he suffered at the hands of his alcoholic father.

"I slept in the cold, covered only with a gunny sack," he said. "I was addicted to sniffing glue and marijuana but now I know how to shoot film, write scripts, interview people and edit video."

"I have hope for my future," he added.

The training program, based in Dagoretti -- home to more than 12,000 street children according to the Nairobi City Council -- has more than 80 participants, all of whom are former street children or AIDS orphans.

"This project is about giving children hope, allowing them to convey what people in Africa, in Nairobi, in the slums are going through," the program's filmmaking instructor Henry Thuo said.

Different Perspectives will be a vehicle for Kori, Kangethe and Nyawira to communicate the challenges of growing up in a developing country to an international audience, he said.

AMREF is hoping the film will share the success of its previous project, African Spelling Book, a series of 21 three-minute shorts that was aired on the National Geographic Channel in 146 countries.

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