- The English translation of the Pascal Plisson documentary may not have a flashing ring to it since ‘‘On the way to school’’ sounds rather pedestrian.
- But the film’s Kenya premier, which served to cap off the seven-film showcase of practically brand new French films, was anything but dull.
- Featuring four sets of pre-teens coming from very different backgrounds and corners of the globe, the one common denominator among them was each having to face and overcome a myriad of obstacles in order to fulfil their dreams and go to school.
by Margaretta wa Gacheru
While Lupita Nyong’o’s break-out film 12 Years a Slave just won Best Motion Picture award this past weekend at the 67th British Academy Film Awards or the BAFTA’s in UK, our favourite Kenyan film star didn’t get the Best Supporting Actress award as we had hoped.Instead, it went to Jennifer Lawrence for her zany role in American Hustle.Yet Lupita still has one more chance in two weeks time to win big-time when the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood are announced.Our girl is a strong contender again for Best Supporting Actress; although this time she’ll be up against even more formidable odds as there’s not only Ms Lawrence.There’s also Julia Roberts for her part in August Osage County and Sally Hawkins who played Cate Blanchette’s sister in Blue Jasmine.Lupita has already won multiple film awards, been featured in countless interviews and walked on a multitude of red carpets looking super-photogenic and ultra-chic.In the meantime, while all eyes were either on London, Hollywood or New York where Lupita’s now the darling of the paparazzi, right here in Nairobi the just-ended 11th French Film Festival introduced two youthful local talents to the limelight this past Monday night when their film, Sur le Chemin de l’ecole premiered at Alliance Francaise.The English translation of the Pascal Plisson documentary may not have a flashing ring to it since ‘‘On the way to school’’ sounds rather pedestrian.MANY OBSTACLES
But the film’s Kenya premier, which served to cap off the seven-film showcase of practically brand new French films, was anything but dull.Featuring four sets of pre-teens coming from very different backgrounds and corners of the globe, the one common denominator among them was each having to face and overcome a myriad of obstacles in order to fulfil their dreams and go to school.The other six films screened during the festival included various genres: there was drama (Pour une Femme), comedy (Camille Redouble), bittersweet tragedy (Cloclo), animated action adventure (Kirikou et les homes et les femmes) and several films that mixed several genres into one (Pop Redemption and Duvent dans mes Mollets). Sur le Chemin de l’ecole is billed as a documentary since it captures real life experiences of children whose families reside either in rural Argentina, India, Morocco or Kenya.But because Plisson was highly selective in his choice of children and geographical terrain, his film seemed more like a panoramic docu-drama filled with everything from drama and adventure to touching emotional moments when the children faced enormous, even life-threatening, obstacles on their way to school.One of the highlights of the premier was the appearance in person of the two Kenyan stars, Jackson Saikong and his little sister Salome.Selected in 2011 when Plisson visited six primary schools in Laikipia County and met nearly 1,500 children, Jackson had an instant appeal for the Frenchman who found the 11-year-ld at the last school on his list, Soit-Oudo Primary.Speaking to the Business Daily shortly before the film’s Kenya premier, Jackson (whose full Maasai name is Jackson Molloyian ole Saikong) said Plisson asked him very direct questions:How far do you walk to get to school every day? “15 kilometres each way,” was his reply, which turned out to be the farthest distance that any other child walked on a daily basis in the district.What, if any, dangers do you face along the way? “Hyenas, snakes and buffalos as well as elephants, cheetahs and lions,” Jackson said. The fact that the boy took his little sister (three years his junior) over the same treacherous terrain made the boy of even greater appeal to Plisson who went on to spend three weeks with the Saikongs, accompanied by only one cameraman and one soundman.The beauty of Plisson’s cinematography is that the children come across as utterly natural and unaffected by the camera, even when they have to run away from elephants and Salome spills her precious plastic pitcher of water as she flees for her life.The spillage is all the more salient since the film opens with Jackson digging for the water that both he and Salome will bring to school.This is part of his daily pre-school routine, along with collecting sticks that they carry for making the lunchtime fire.Life has changed a great deal for Jackson and Salome since they first met Plisson. Both children are now sponsored to attend the best primary school in the district.Both have travelled (accompanied by their guardian, head teacher Ms Anne Resiano) all the way from Laikipia to Paris for the film’s official launch, and to Qatar where they starred at an International Youth Conference.So Jackson (now 13) and Salome (now 10) may not yet have the celebrity status of a Lupita, but the success of Plisson’s film and the opportunities it has opened up for them suggest the sky’s the limit for these two blossoming Kenyan film stars.