Music Video

Winning Film Released in Michael Kiwanuka & FilmAid Music Video Competition

The winning film in Michael Kiwanuka and FilmAid's music video contest has been released on Vevo, it was announced today. You can view the video hereBelow, NeeNee Productions' Gayle Nosal discusses the creation of the video, winning the competition, and what's next for their project.

The footage seen in our music video came from a two-week field production in Uganda in the summer of 2013. The filmmaking team at Inflatable Film—Leah Warshawski, Todd Soliday and Chris Towey—traveled from Rwanda and Seattle to meet NeeNee Productions and collaborate on the initial phase of a longer-term production to follow a group of refugee and displaced teenage girls who live together in Uganda, hoping to stay in school and pursue their dreams for the future. The longer-term goal of the project is to capture over time the important dynamics of the girls’ lives—their shared pasts, their common household, their larger community, and their future pathways. 

NeeNee Productions is returning to Uganda in February 2014 to continue gathering footage of the girls as well as their families and friends in the surrounding communities. We are also excited to share that during our February trip, NeeNee is collaborating with Ugandan professionals to bring various skills and expertise to the project and provide creative and personal mentoring to the girls. For example, in February, NeeNee Productions is hiring four professional, university-educated Ugandan women as camera/video instructor (using video cameras donated to the girls by NeeNee), cultural and community liaison story-telling teacher, interviewer, and refugee consultant. NeeNee has also hired a Ugandan-based videographer for this trip.

We at NeeNee Productions are overjoyed that FilmAid and Michael Kiwanuka chose our music video to be the grand prizewinner of their contest. We extend our deepest gratitude to the young women featured in the music video, to their families and friends, and to the people of Think Humanity, who are dedicated to educating these girls. The ongoing project will culminate in a documentary film as well as a unique video content online. You can follow the progress of these girls and our project at and on twitter at @intheneenee

On behalf of everyone involved at NeeNee Productions, we would like to thank FilmAid, Michael Kiwanuka, Talenthouse as well as Inflatable Film and Think Humanity for the opportunity to enter this contest and share our deep connection to the girls with others.

Music, Movies, and Magic


There's something magical about the combination of film and music.  Some of the most popular FilmAid screenings in the camps consist solely of silent footage -- of a cartoon cat and mouse, or a little black-and-white tramp with a cane; pure, escapist slapstick.

But the music that accompanies it elevates it, and the minds of those who watch it, just as the words of a particularly poignant song can add resonance to the images on the screen before you.  To that end, we'd like to point you once more in the direction of Soundcheque, the wonderful original music for film service which has been providing gems like our recent 'Love Online' with music. 

That combination can work even more magically in the form of a call to action or to raise awareness of real events and embed their significance in the mind of the watcher.  Right now we're impressed with Ellie Goulding's latest collaboration with Save the Children, an initiative which sees sales of her amazing song I Know You Care going to help the organization with its work with Syrian children.  Goulding had teamed up with Universal Records and Save the Children through digital marketing agency STEAK to ensure that downloads of the song, originally made for the filmNow Is Good starring Dakota Fanning, go to the appeal.  

All of which comes as a 'by the way' to remind you of our fabulous contest to produce a music video for us. In collaboration with creative crowdsourcers Talenthouse, we are looking for a music video that tells the stories of refugees, set to the haunting track 'Home Again' by Michael Kiwanuka.  Fantastic prizes are on offer to the winner and the winner of the popular vote.  This is your way of helping us tell the story of the individuals we work with.  Please get involved and spread the word!


How A Joy Formidable Song Found Its Way to a Kenyan Refugee Camp

This entry is reposted from MTV IGGY

Band Aids FilmAid in Time for World Refugee Day By Beverly Bryan

20 June 2012-There is a proverb from Ghana that says “the drummer does not know how far the sound travels.” The Joy Formidable found out recently that this piece of wisdom holds as true for Welsh rockers in the UK as it does for West Africans.

The trio has become known worldwide for big swelling anthems that mix extremely loud shoegaze with the emotional punch of melodic post-hardcore. As of late, they’ve finished a second album, mostly recorded and written in Portland, Maine and finished on the tour bus while making their way through the US in March, followed by a big date at Bonnaroo. It was a bit rushed but they did get to see the Beach Boys. They’re busy building on the success of 2011′s debut album The Big Roar. They’ve reached a lot of people with their music, but about a month ago they found out just how far their sound had traveled.

Two filmmakers who had been volunteering as teaching artists in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya contacted them to say that they had used the Joy Formidable single “A Heavy Abacus” in a short film they shot with kids in the camp, most of whom are fleeing violence in Sudan. It shows some of the camp’s youngest residents smiling and mouthing the lyrics of the song, creating a very compelling impression that they are singing Bryan’s emotive vocals.

The filmmakers, Paola Mendoza and Topaz Adizes, wanted to know if it was alright with the band. It was. More than alright with it, The Joy Formidable has been enthusiastically spreading the word about FilmAid, the organization Mendoza and Adizes work with. “We’re very keen for people to see it,” singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan says, “We’re just very, very honored to be involved in the project.” She got to see the rough cut a couple of weeks ago.

Bryan admits she hadn’t heard of FilmAid before Mendoza and Adizes got in touch, but is now one of its champions. “There are a whole lot of problems to tackle in the area where they’re working, but I think the way they’re approaching it, through the power of images and art as a way of connecting with people is great,” Bryan says. “It’s a great charity. We hope the video helps them reach a wider audience. It challenges people to think for a second about how other people are living. Ultimately the idea of the video is to encourage people to donate to what is a great charity.”

FilmAid uses video in different ways to uplift refugees and other vulnerable communities all over the world. Workers teach filmmaking, help refugees tell their stories, and bring movies to inform and entertain camps using mobile movie screens attached to trucks. FilmAid released the video to raise awareness, not only about their work but about World Refugee Day. Observed annually on June 20, the date was created by the UN to remember those who have been forced by conflict or disaster to leave their homes, people like the kids in Kakuma.

The band members themselves wanted to find out more about Kakuma after they saw the video. “We were curious. It definitely affected us. The images are very moving. I think we all need to be shaken out of our complacency, to take a moment to think about other people’s situations,” the musician said.

Bryan explains “A Heavy Abacus” is in some ways in harmony with the video. Even if they didn’t have a refugee camp in mind when it was written, it is a song about children. “When we originally wrote it a year and a half ago it was very much inspired by themes of children growing up too fast, losing innocence, not being shielded from adult problems, materialism. That was what was driving the song originally, and a lot of that was just based on the current state of what children are exposed to. And wanting children to be children for as long as possible.”

“Obviously, the video has put it in a completely different context. It brings a whole new level of poignancy. These children, they’re facing a much more serious challenge of basic survival,” the soft-spoken frontwoman reflected.

Being forced to leave your home in the wake of civil war can certainly bring a loss of innocence, but in the video,  kids of all ages are just being kids — laughing and playing, albeit under difficult circumstances. That’s part of what makes the film so poignant. The stars of the video might show resilience, but the filmmakers depict something far more precarious,  explaining in text that 2,000 new refugees arrive at the Kakuma each month.

The video was shot in just three days using one camera, two light reflectors and an iPhone, but it’s hard to imagine it being more impactful. The final shot shows the entire cast singing the chorus: “Abacus watching me.” Their faces, like the accompanying words and melody, are hard to forget. It puts a vibrant human face on a humanitarian crisis.

“It’s a beautifully shot video and it kind of underscores their mantra at FilmAid. The way that they’re connecting with people in places like Kakuma is through the power of film. I think it’s a very obvious example of how that can transcend other forms of communication. Music, art and visuals combined can bring home a very powerful message,” Bryan says of the clip.

The award-winning filmmakers made a similar statement about their project: “While working in the Kakuma Refugee camp we were inspired by the strength of the people we met. So often refugees are forgotten because the problem seems too overwhelming. Our intention was to have two worlds crashing together with the hopes that in the mash-up both worlds’ beauty would shine through in their purest form.”

It seems to be having the desired effect. “Certainly, there have been a lot of people watching it who have been curious about the background, the charity and the work that FilmAid does. It’s had a great response. It’s been shared by a whole host of people from different walks of life it seems,” Bryan reports.

There is more information about World Refugee Day at

FilmAid and The Joy Formidable “A Heavy Abacus”

This entry has been reposted from The Fader

Filmmakers Paola Mendoza and Topaz Adizes spent a month volunteering for nonprofit group FilmAid as visiting teaching artists in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. While there, they got inspired to shoot a video inside the camp, based around Welsh band The Joy Formidable‘s single “A Heavy Abacus.”

The video is a beautifully vivid portrait of young Sudanese refugees, a tribute to the strength and resilience of kids whose lives are in limbo. “So often refugees are forgotten because the problem seems too overwhelming,” the directors have stated. “This is an attempt to shake us out of our complacency and recognize the power that is in every one of us to help make the world better.” Impressively, the video was shot in just three days, using one camera, two light reflectors and an iPhone. It’s FilmAid’s first music video, released in support of World Refugee Day on June 20th.