The gritty lifestyle of Kampala slums has always been a favorite topic for filmmaker Robert Nyanzi.
But unlike in his previous works, the 37-year-old filmmaker presents a message of hope and success rather than crime and hopelessness in his latest film, Kai: The Vender.
The 17-minute picture tells the story of Kai, a 14-year-old boy who migrates to the shanty town of Kireka with his single mother.
The duo struggle to make ends meet with Kai vending roast meat steaks while the mother hawks sweet bananas to slum dwellers, all in the hope of raising Kai’s school fees.
Surrounded by gangsters and drug addicts, Kai struggles to keep a straight line, but his desire to go to school eventually leads him back on the right track.
“It’s always inspiring for me to see young kids in these ghettos using the little they have to try and better their lives. It’s this kind of positive energy that I wanted to capture in this film,” Nyanzi yesterday told audiences at the Amakula International Film Festival where his film screened to warm reception.
Nyanzi, who today flies out to Egypt where the short film is scheduled to participate at the Luxor festival (LAFF), said he cast his young lead Michael Ssedinda out of a pool of about 50 kids from his neighborhood.
Ssedinda had to undergo an intensive three-week residential training camp at Nyanzi’s house in order for him to be able to nail his role.
But it was never an easy process getting Kai off the ground. Nyanzi honed the script through last year’s Maisha Film Lab, but was beaten to the lab’s $5,000 grand prize for the winning script.
Luckily for him, German Christian NGO, Bread for the World, saw potential in his story and endorsed it with a $4,000 production grant, enabling its production at the start of this year.
Although still undergoing editing, Kai has so far played at film festivals in Kigali and Kampala, and Nyanzi says more screenings are lined up across the world.
Polly Kamukama, the author, is a journalist