education

 

Cheza Jouer: Sandals Worn Backwards
June 28, 2016

by Jeramy Pritchett

I, Allan Gaitirira, was born and raised in Kenya into the Kikuyu tribe, and I’ve been hearing stories of the Mau Mau fighters since I was a young boy. It was in school that I first noticed how my teachers and textbooks were telling a watered-down version of events that was different from what I was used to hearing from my parents and grandparents. When my parents told stories of violence and danger, I imagined a live action movie complete with African heroes toting homemade guns, fashioning machetes, growing out their hair like dreadlock rastas, and trekking the forests trying to win back their land and freedom from their colonial masters. 

As I envisioned my live action movies I also heard words like “Bara”(war) and “Muito”(massacre). When I would press for more information, my parents would immediately shut me down and make statements such as, “Too graphic for a child” or,“You can’t handle the violence”; all fairly common statements back then. As I grew older and wanted to know more about the rebellion, I continued to be met with such tight-lipped resistance within my own family that now, as a man, I still don’t know the truth. We have a right to know and share our history, even if that history shines a harsh light on our ancestors or the outcome seems to have been unfavorable at the time. Knowing the truth is how we learn and grow and flourish as a people.

Together, my wife, Diana, and my aim at Cheza Jouer is to tell the stories that were told to us by our forefathers. Share stories (including those that are not our own) that have been hushed, overlooked, and omitted from the classroom. Let’s watch, learn, and share these stories to ensure that they live forever.

BFM: When did you decide to make this film?

Allan: In 2010 I took my wife, Diana, to Kenya for the first time. She became intrigued with the Mau Mau story when she overheard a brief conversation referring to the rebellion between my father and grandmother. In her fascination, she stalked both of them until they gave into her intrigue and answered as many questions possible. At first my father quickly dismissed her request but I watched this tough, traditional, Kikuyu man slowly release a huge burden off his shoulders as he began to revisit his past by telling his story. A story that he’d kept bottled within for 50 years. It was at that moment that my wife and I knew we had to tell this story.

BFM: What is your background? What experience do you have in film making?

Both: We started out as actors. Later, when faced with a lack of roles available to minorities, we became inspired to work behind the camera in production and film making. We produced our first project in 2011 which was a SAG short comedy film called Not On Board. Although the experience was demanding and frustrating at times, we found it to be a very exciting and rewarding experience.

BFM: How did you get other people to get passionate and involved in what you are doing?

Both: We share a condensed version of the story and people are immediately drawn to the themes of oppression and inequality.


Our aim is to tell the stories that have been hushed and overlooked.

BFM: How are you getting the money together to make the film?

Allan: We are approaching this with a combination of our own funds, applying for grants, angel investors, underwriters, and etc.


Photos by Allan & Diana Gaitirira
Film still

BFM: Some writers say that they wrote the book to get things off their chest and really the story was written for them. Is there any part of that in why you are doing this film?

Diana: Yes! We grew tired of the lack of diversity taught in the school systems and represented in the mainstream media. Allan and I come from cultures that are rich in history and empowerment and we wanted to share those stories and feelings with the world. So instead of complaining we decided to do something about it. Thus creating our film production company Cheza Jouer Films. Also, Allan has a personal connection to this story since he was born and raised in Kenya, from the Kikuyu tribe, and has family members who are key witnesses to the rebellion.

BFM: What are you hoping to accomplish by making this film?

Both: Few people today know about the Mau Mau rebellion, and what they do know is typically from a narrow Western perspective. There are four purposes for our film. Our first goal is to evoke emotion whether it be anger, sadness, bitterness, etc. Second, we want the key witnesses to feel a sense of closure as they release the burdens of being pressured from both the British and the Mau Mau. The third purpose is to educate. Finally, we want to create an ongoing medium to continue the oral tradition of storytelling from a minority’s perspective.

Photos by Allan & Diana Gaitirira
Film still

BFM: Why did you reach out to Blindfold Magazine?

Both: We reached out to your FABULOUS magazine because we love your mission statement and logo—you are one of the few magazines who “get it”. Your magazine aligns with our Cheza Jouer Films mandate. We do not true a blind eye to social causes and firmly stand for social justice.

BFM: If you could sit around a campfire and have a conversation with anyone dead or alive, who would it be? And what would you ask them?

Allan: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , I would ask him, “how were you able to give so little to yourself and give so much to others?”

Diana: Harriet Tubman. I would ask her, “What motivated you to get up every day and navigate the underground railroad with all it’s dangers. Where did you find hope amidst all the oppression and pain?

Photos by Allan & Diana Gaitirira
Allan Gaitirira on set

BFM: Is our country on the right path or are we going at it all wrong? Why?

Allan: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , I would ask him, “how were you able to give so little to yourself and give so much to others?”

Diana: Harriet Tubman. I would ask her, “What motivated you to get up every day and navigate the underground railroad with all it’s dangers. Where did you find hope amidst all the oppression and pain?

BFM: Is our country on the right path or are we going at it all wrong? Why?

Allan: We are on the right path. Social issues are now on the forefront, the populace is now fully engaged on these social issues, and committed to social justice. Although we have a long way to go, we are on the right track.

BFM: What is next for Cheza Jouer?

Both: More documentary projects on great stories about minorities living in: Haiti, Brazil, Australia, India, Africa, and more. 



Social Issues Africa Documentary Generation Y

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About The Author: Jacqueline Romano

Jacqueline Romano is the Creative Director & Editor of Blindfold Magazine. She feels it is her personal vocation to use her creative skills to raise awareness for people and organizations who are making positive change, both globally and locally.





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