alexa Kenyan film ‘Shoto’ takes on Hollywood - Daily Nation

Kenyan film ‘Shoto’ takes on Hollywood

Sunday April 14 2019

Atlanta based Kenyan DJ Fully Foucs. PHOTO | COURTESY

Atlanta based Kenyan DJ Fully Foucs. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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A Kenyan short film “Shoto” which came to life after aspiring film makers pitched their story idea has been nominated for the prestigious Best of New Filmmakers Los Angeles awards for Best New Media. The film was not only nominated but it recently premiered at the Oxford Film Festival in the United States. The nomination was announced in Hollywood last week.

Shoto is the nickname of a matatu driver whose route runs from Umoja to Central Business District and back. It follows a day in Shoto’s life and in the process, it showcases many aspects of matatu culture. The initial idea which led to the making of “Shoto” is attributed to Firul Maithya and Arnold Mvoi.

Shifting gears in the Eastlands of Nairobi, a local man strives to take over the matatu industry with a promise to uphold its vibrant culture. It is a story about the Matatu culture in Nairobi told through the eyes of a local driver named Ken. The unique state of transportation within the biggest city in Kenya can only be experienced first-hand behind the steering wheel. Ken builds a unique community through his customers and colleagues as he works toward owning his own bus in the near future. “Shoto” provides a portrait of a man with big dreams in a challenging economic environment. The synopsis reads in part.

Azali Ishmael, who was among the film makers of “Shoto”, could not hide his joy when news of the film’s nomination broke.

“Tonight I want to take this opportunity to first thank God, thank the stories found Team: James Martin, Bud Simpson and Evie Maina in conjunction with the US Embassy Nairobi, not forgetting the amazing, amazing students who took a three-week online course and one week Crush Ground/practical course, to make this a success project together with our main cast of Shoto,” said Ishmael.

The film was funded by the US Embassy in Kenya, which also assisted the Stories Found project. The winner of the New Filmmakers Los Angeles Awards is usually picked by a 14-member jury made up of professionals who work in the Los Angeles and larger Hollywood film industry.


Interest in film-making has exploded among young Kenyans, hundreds of whom responded to the call that went out from an international film team called “Stories Found” in mid-2018.

According to Stories Found project, their primary goal is to teach young filmmakers how to find and share compelling stories from their own communities.

“We’re looking for a team of young and committed individuals to participate in the inaugural Stories Found curriculum and filmmaking workshop in Nairobi, Kenya,” reads part of the application process.

The team was offering aspiring young filmmakers a chance to take an online documentary film-making course run by Atlanta-based filmmakers Bud Simpson and James Martin. Kenyans selected for the course would then take part in making a film that highlighted elements of contemporary Kenyan culture.