Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue to be Presented in Kenya July 15-25

NAIROBI, KENYA (July 6, 2011) Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue, a Sundance Institute initiative created in partnership with U.S. federal cultural agencies, will be presented in Kenya July 15-25, in conjunction with FilmAid and supported in part by the Embassy of the United States, Nairobi, Kenya, it was announced today by Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute.

The Film Forward program in Kenya will present a broad spectrum of screenings and workshops geared to various communities in Nairobi, including Kibera and Mathare, as well as the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Dadaab Refugee Camp, home to more than 370,000 refugees. An additional screening will take place in Mombasa. Various creative workshops will include a screenwriting and directing workshop and a youth workshop focusing on storytelling and narrative techniques in film. Sundance Institute staff will represent the initiative and with Film Forward filmmakers will engage in dialogue with audiences around the core cultural issues in the films in select Nairobi locations, Mombasa and the Kakuma Refugee Camp. 

Included in the program are outdoor screenings of A Small Act and Boy. In Kakuma, filmmaker Jennifer Arnold and subject Jane Muigai (a local Kenyan citizen, co-founder of Hilde Back Foundation and Senior Legal Advisor UNHCR, Geneva) will participate in a Q&A with the audience immediately following A Small Act, as will director/writer Taika Waititi after the Boy screening in Kakuma. The other eight films to be presented are: Afghan Star (Afghanistan), Amreeka (USA), Freedom Riders (USA), La Mission, (USA), Last Train Home (China), Son of Babylon (Iraq), Udaan (India) and Winter’s Bone (USA).
A special panel focusing on storytelling across different mediums, presented by both Sundance Institute’s Film Forward and Theatre Program East Africa initiative, will be held on July 16. Panelists will represent Sundance Institute Film Forward and Theatre Program East Africa initiative, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Panelists are: Jennifer Arnold (A Small Act); Hope Azeda, founding and artistic director, Mashirika Creative and Performing Arts in Rwanda; Cajetan Boy (Kaminey: The Scoundrels); Indu Rubasingham (The Great Game); Oscar-nominated writer/director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams, Freedom Song); Taika Waititi (Boy); and Oscar-nominated actress and PCAH Board Member Alfre Woodard. The panel will be moderated by Orlando Bagwell, Director of the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms Initiative.

“I can’t think of a better organization for Film Forward to partner with in Africa than FilmAid,” commented Putnam. “Their outreach to refugee communities around the world effectively frames our goal to bring films to under-served audiences. The Sundance Institute Theatre Program has had a presence in Kenya for a number of years and we are thrilled to bring Film Forward to the country as well.”

A joint venture of Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) in cooperation with USA federal cultural partners, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Film Forward connects contemporary U.S. and international films and filmmakers with diverse global audiences and features documentary and narrative films. Film Forward mirrors the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints it promotes, underscoring the importance of mutual understanding and respect for other cultures and traditions that is at the heart of cultural exchange.

The Film Forward program in Kenya is working in partnership with the FilmAid Film Festival, which showcases films produced by refugee filmmakers in Kenya through FilmAid’s participatory video programs.

A full schedule of screenings and events is available at

U.S.A. Arts Organizations

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) bridges the interests of American federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation and excellence in the arts and humanities, and helps incorporate these disciplines into White House objectives. First Lady Michelle Obama is the Honorary Chairman of the PCAH.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) serves and strengthens our Republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The NEH is the nation’s leading supporter of research education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is an independent federal grant making agency dedicated to creating strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The IMLS works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.

Sundance Institute
Sundance Institute is a global nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981. Through its programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, composers and playwrights, the Institute seeks to discover and support independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to inform, inspire, and unite diverse populations around the globe. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in

FilmAid International
FilmAid International uses the power of film and video to reach the world’s most vulnerable communities with messages that inspire them, address their critical shared needs, and effect social change. FilmAid has been active in Kenya since 2001, when programs were launched at the Kakuma Refugee Camp. In 2006 FilmAid expanded Kenyan operations to Dadaab – the largest refugee camp in the world and currently home to more than 350,000 people. FilmAid also works throughout Kenya, particularly in Nairobi’s slums and informal settlements, to empower communities to tell their own stories through film and work towards positive development.

Kenya Outreach Partners
Film Forward outreach partners in Kenya include:  MEDEVA – Media Development in Africa, Slum TV, Ghetto Films, Kibera News Network, Film Africa!, FilmAid Participatory Video Program (PVP) and Kakuma Youth.

Film Forward Films

A Small Act / USA (Director: Jennifer Arnold) — A young Kenyan’s life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founded his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.

Afghan Star / Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana Marking) — After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing.

Amreeka / USA (Director and Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis) — When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat, Joseph Ziegler.

Boy / New Zealand (Director and screenwriter: Taika Waititi) — When his father returns home after many years away, 11-year-old Boy and his little brother Rocky must reconcile reality with the fantasy dad they created in their imagination. Cast: Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone.

Freedom Riders / USA (Director: Stanley Nelson) — The powerful, harrowing and ultimately inspiring story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever.  Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders’ belief in non-violent activism was sorely tested as mob violence and bitter racism greeted them along the way. 

La Mission / USA (Director and Screenwriter: Peter Bratt) — A traditional, Latino father in San Francisco’s Mission District struggles to come to terms with his teenage son’s homosexuality. Credited by Latino media as being both authentic and genuine to various aspects of American Hispanic cultures. Cast: Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Talisa Soto Bratt, Jesse Borrego.

Last Train Home / Canada (Director: Lixin Fan) — Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200 million other peasants to reunite with their distant family.

Son of Babylon / Iraq (Director: Mohamed Al Daradji; Screenwriters: Mohamed Al-Daradji, Jennifer Norridge, Mithal Ghazi) — In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother venture through Iraq on a quest to find their missing father/son. Cast: Yasser Talib, Shazda Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid. 

Udaan / India (Director Vikramaditya Motwane; Screenwriter: Motwane) — Following his expulsion from boarding school, Rohan returns to the small industrial town of Jamshedpur. After 8 years away, he finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half brother whom he didn’t even know existed. Udaan explores deep-rooted family dynamics and a triumph of the human spirit.
Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Aayan Boradia, Ram Kapoor.

Winter’s Bone / USA (Director: Debra Granik; Screenwriters: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini) — An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her missing father while trying to keep her family intact. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin Breznahan. Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Aayan Boradia, Ram Kapoor.

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