Newsletter: Finding Stars & Fighting Stereotypes


A Message from the Executive Director

Like many of you who are receiving this email, I am feeling overwhelmed. From the Korean Peninsula to the islands of Puerto Rico; from the devastating terrorist attack in Mogadishu to the recent tragedy in lower-Manhattan, there are new crises every day that demand our attention, our empathy, and with more frequency, our outrage.

At FilmAid, we believe during times of compounding crises like these, the power of film is not just important, but absolutely essential. 

Storytelling, photography, and filmmaking provide more than the spark that ignites social change. They are the fuel that keeps us fighting in the face of any obstacle. 

"The real challenge is not simply to survive... It's to survive as yourself undiminished" - Elia Kazan

The stories below are each about FilmAid students and staff using art and storytelling to not just survive, but "to survive as ourselves, undiminished."

Thank you for remaining steadfast in your solidarity, and strong in your support of refugees half way around the world who are struggling to lift up their communities.

With gratitude, 

Keefe Murren
Executive Director | FilmAid International


Life-Saving Information: UPENN and FilmAid


Collaboration is the Only Solution

FilmAid initiated a powerful collaboration with UPENN this past July. Together 8 UPENN students and 16 FilmAid students produced a comprehensive “welcome kit” video for new refugee arrivals in Kakuma and Kalobeyei refugee settlements. The project was built from the ground up as an opportunity for youth to meaningfully collaborate and learn together while delivering life-saving information to displaced people in dire need.

FilmAid Executive Director at UPENN

The project with UPENN culminated in a presentation at the Perry World House on UPENN's campus. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Populations, Refugees and Migration, Anne Richard along with Professor of Cinema Studies, Peter Decherney and FilmAid Executive Director Keefe Murren hosted a presentation of the "welcome kit" along with a virtual reality project that the UPENN students produced during their time in Kakuma. Three UPENN participants joined the discussion as well, with Sonari Chidi summing up the inspiration behind the project by celebrating the resilience and creativity of refugees themselves: “People don’t consider that refugees had a full and vibrant life before they became refugees,” Chidi said. “This experience of being a refugee isn’t all that they are. They’re so much more than that."

Photo: Courtesy of Peter Decherney, UPENN Cinema Studies Professor.


Stories not Stereotypes: a FilmAid Documentary

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In October, FilmAid Kenya premiered a documentary in prime time on one of Kenya's biggest broadcasters. A Journey Through My City is a documentary about Kenyans and refugees building communities of mutual support and respect, as told by the the communities themselves. The film follows Anne Nyandeng, a young woman recently arrived from South Sudan, and Ignatius Lokitare, an older, visually impaired man from the Turkana community. Anne and Ignatius take the viewer on a tour of the diverse  communities they call their own, and introduce us to the many ways that both the Kenyan and refugee community are already benefiting from working together as neighbors.

The documentary was produced by FilmAid for a UK funded program called  SPARK (Support and Protection for Affected Refugees in Kenya) which seeks to integrate refugees into Kenyan society through skills training. The goal of the documentary was to show how these different cultures - refugees and Kenyans - can both benefit from their unique ingenuity and creativity.

FilmAid’s production team spent 6 weeks researching and filming the stories with the different communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei, to capture the true power and potential of the people living both in and around the camp. With our Kenyan and refugee production team, FilmAid was able to compellingly push back against stereotypes that create obstacles in the search for solutions. 

Funded by the Department For International Development (DFID).



Indie Spirit Lives on in Kakuma Refugee Camp

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Move over Tarantino, Here Comes Amina

If the spirit of indie film is to get your movie made no matter what, then you can't get more indie than Amina Rwimo Hortence.

Made with her own money, in a refugee camp, and with her friends as cast and crew, her film, It Has Killed My Mother is a testament to the indie spirit, and to Amina's singular strength and talent. Amina's film is a love story between a young man and a young woman. Their love turns tragic when the birth of their first child takes the life of the young mother because of the effects of female genital mutilation. Through the compelling story and characters, the film is an emotional and defiant call to end violence against women and girls.

Amina started her film career as a student in FilmAid’s Skills Development program in 2015 and has worked as a Film Training Facilitator with FilmAid ever since. In 2016, Amina and her filmmaking partner Adbul Patient started their own independent production company, Exile Key Films. With their skills and ambition they are earning an income making videos for NGOs, events, weddings and more. It Has Killed My Mother is their first original production. 

“If it was not for the training I got from Filmaid I couldn’t have achieved what I have today. The training I received made me who I am.” - Amina Rwino Hortenc

Amina's film won the top prize for best film, best screenplay and best actress at the Slum Film Festival. The film will soon be featured at the Global Migration Film Festival being show around the world in December. 



Ending Discrimination through Hip-hop and Soul

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FilmAid launched its inaugural talent scouting program, Finding a Star, to push positive images of refugees in the media, and give opportunities to FilmAid trained youth to use their videography, public relations and music production skills. FilmAid teamed up with popular Kenyan hip-hop artist WYRE to engage young, talented musicians and FilmAid’s Media students under the Media Entrepreneurship Training Program. FilmAid staff and the stars themselves have appeared on TV and in the national press promoting the project, and showing that refugees can contribute to their societies.

Click here to view the music video for South Sudanese refugee Mercy Akuot's new hit single, Anavyo ni Fanya ni Hisi (The Way He Makes Me Feel). 

Click here to view Turkana hip-hop artist, Scooby Lincos' song Kazi Tu (Just Work).

FilmAid's Finding a Star project promotes youth economic empowerment through music and video production, with FilmAid students learning music journalism, public relations, video production and entrepreneurship. Finding a Star has encouraged and engaged young musicians and media professionals to create new opportunities for themselves. Read more about the project here.