Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"I want to be a pilot"

Image from the film, Diego Quemada-Diez


After the amazing experience of working in the film The Constant Gardener I wanted to make my own film in Kibera. My intention was to find a powerful story that would show the extreme situation in the slums of Nairobi.
So I went back to listen to the kids from the ghetto, to hear their stories, their feelings, their dreams.

On August 2005 I interviewed about 50 orphan kids in one of the classrooms from Raila’s School.
David Mugambe and the school’s principal helped me organize the interviews. David passed away just a few weeks later in a car accident. Wherever he is now, I thank him deeply from my heart. The film would not be what it is whithout his help. This film is dedicated to him as well as all the victims of AIDS, poverty and social injustice around the world.

Most of the kids I listened to had lost both parents at a very young age, and all of them from AIDS. The parents were all in their twenties at the time of death.

The kids told me about their feelings of loneliness, their sorrows, their complaints about corruption, pollution, the lack of clean water and sanitization, religious fanatism, the exploitation by adults, and most importantly, the lack of love in their lives, the absence of hope for a better future.

I will never forget how an eight year old kid explained to me how he used decantation to get clean water from black, extremely infected, polluted water. It took him hours, just pouring from one glass to another, waiting for the solids to settle, over and over, so at the end he would boil it and drink it.

All the kids cried for help, one after the other.
They asked me for school uniforms, for books, for food, for water, for money to pay the school’s tuition, for pencils/pens and many other things.
I was overwhelmed, I just listened as deeply as I could.

When asked about their dreams and hopes most of them wanted to be airline pilots, doctors or nurses.

After a few hours, I left home very moved.
Suddenly, it was as if something hit me:
80% of them wanted to be airline pilots!
I thought: “I Want to Be A Pilot”.

Then I started writing.
I started crying.
Writing, crying. I could not stop either one.
Somehow the words were pouring out of me.
After two days the poem was completed.

Then I went back to Kibera with the sound crew to record the kids reading the poem. After eight kids read the poem, there was one that had a powerful sadness in his voice. It was as if he carried everyone’s sorrow.
I had found him. It was Collins, who in the film plays Omondi.

A year later I went back with a Super-8 camera and shot the images for the film.

That’s a little bit of the story of how this came into being, I really din’t know where it was heading.. I just wanted to listen to them and create something that would inspire us to want to take action.

There are millions of kids in the world victims of the injustices of our industrial civilization, while we are distracted buying things, evading reality.
Our neocolonial policies are taking their toll on our children, on mother earth and all living beings we share this planet with.
Their suffering is ours.
Wake up!

Diego Quemada-Diez



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