Behind the scenes in the Great Rift Valley
Our brand new film, Reading ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ in the Great Rift Valley, is up for this year’s Charity Film of the Year Award. It’s a fantastic honour for our new film – and we’re so pleased with how it’s turned out.
Making this film was only possible because an entire community came together to tell the story of how books change lives. Book Aid International Head of Communications Emma Taylor told us more:
We wanted to make this film because we wanted to give our supporters a first-hand look at what happens when a child discovers a wonderful book for the first time – so we were determined to feature a real beneficiary in a community that exemplifies how books can change lives.
Lagam, where the film was shot in Keya’s Great Rift Valley, was the clear choice because of its vibrant library and commitment to education – but we knew it would be a challenge. The village is very remote, accessible only via a steep descent along an unpaved road. We knew we needed the right crew – a team which realise our vision beautifully, work to our tight budget and face down the challenges of working in remote Kenya. We found just such a team in Raw London, planned the film and were soon ready to depart!
Immediately, we the travel gods frowned on our plans. Delayed out of London, we arrived in Nairobi at midnight the evening before a 4am departure for Lagam. After a short power nap our car arrived, and we learned that historic floods in Kenya had closed the direct route to Lagam. We would have to take the long way.
After 11 hours, the steep hills proved too much for our 4×4’s brakes. Just a few kilometres from Lagam we began smelling the unmistakeable scent of cooked brake pads and were forced to stop. There was nothign to do but wait. Eventually, 13 hours after leaving Nairobi at 4am, we arrived in Lagam just before dark.
The wonderful Lagam librarians and the stars of our film – Pascalia and her mum Margaret – had waited all day and yet still greeted us with excitement. But it soon became clear that we were in for more adventures. The floods which had closed the road across Kenya had also washed away Lagam’s few passable roads. Our 4×4 was grounded – instead we would have to lug the kit up steep hills to filming locations.
If we had been on our own, it would have been impossible. But we weren’t. The Kenya National Library Service had lent is full support to the programme, so the Lagam librarians and local school teachers immediately agreed to help carry the kit and help our UK team safely navigate the treacherous walking paths. Local chiefs ensured that the community knew that we were there as friends, and families all welcomed us as we trekked across their fields to reach our filming locations.
For three days, we climbed up and down hills, filmed children running across fields, occupied the Lagam library’s Children’s Corner and were even allowed to capture the film’s last scene by a real evening fire. We were welcome wherever we needed to go despite the huge inconvenience we caused because the entire community wanted the story of how important books are to be told.
But while the community’s welcome was impressive, the most remarkable people we met were Pascalia and her mum Margaret. At just 12, Pascalia was selected to take part because she was the best reader in her school – but she has never been anywhere outside of Lagam. So when three strangers with massive cameras showed up it must have been frightening – yet she never faltered. She was incredibly brave and took all that we asked of her in her stride, curious about everything going on around her and taking her own picture so the film crew on my camera whenever possible.
Young people like Pascalia always remind me why our work is so important. Offering books to keen minds like hers can forever change the future – expanding horizons and showing children that a different future is possible.
The film would not have been made without the entire team in Kenya – the community in Lagam, the Lagam Library and the Kenya National Library – but we also had many team members who were not with us in Lagam. I would like to thank The Maurce Sendak foundation for generously granting us permission to use Where the Wild Things Are. I would like to extend them a very warm thank you to the many, many players of People’s Postcode Lottery who funded the filming of the video.
If you love this film, I urge you to vote for it to win 2019’s Charity Film Award. Every vote sends a message that no one should be without the books they need.