By Kiundu Waweru

A man from the Western Province has a dream: to come to Nairobi to find a worthy life. After the initial culture shock he settles in the Mathare slums.

He gets a job in the industrial area, falls in love and gets married. In quick succession, his love rewards him with four daughters and before he can say dream, he has five ‘women’ in his home.

This is a scene depicted in the film, Ndoto za Elibidi, humourously. The first devised as a stage play, premiered last year in the Zanzibar Film Festival, and it has since scooped many awards.

And today, the film that tells a Kenyan story, by Kenyans, premiers at the 20th Century Cinema, where it will be showing every day from 5.30pm.

Ndoto za Elibidi (Elibidi’s Dream), directed by Kamau wa Ndung’u and Nick Reding is a feel good feature film. Its narrative is unique and creative; revolving between a stage play, with a real excited audience, and a conventional movie.

Stigma rife

It’s a story of acceptance and love, with the main theme on HIV/ Aids, told not in an NGO way, but in a fun way that reflects life in the ghetto.

Ndung’u says the film, funded by Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive, was made with a Kenyan audience in mind as opposed to many Kenyan films that target international market. And indeed, acted in Kiswahili and sheng, with English subtitles, the stage play scenes, filmed with a slum audience explore hard issues in a comical, even absurd theatrics that has an immediate impact with the audience. The actors auditioned in the slum areas of Kibera, Mathare, Huruma and they exhibit raw, untapped talent. Among them is Jacques Nyaminde, popularly known as Wilbroda of the Papa Shirandula show. Nick and Kamau say the Wilbroda character was created in Ndoto za Elibidi.

George Elibidi’s (Juma William) four daughters become of age and start seeing boys. In their innocence and naivetÈ, they discuss relationships outside their shanty. The first born, Petronila (Mercy Wanjiku) is dating Pablo (Alfred Calypso), sister Shiko is taking it easy, while Nite (Krysreen Savane) is seeing Ken (Sam Kihiu), a thoughtful and virtuous lad. The last born, Mshere (Ummal Rajab, whose role in the film won her Kalasha best supporting actress, 2010) has a conscientious boyfriend, Vinnie (Irungu Wairimu), Pablo’s brother. They agree to ‘chill’ until Mshere completes her education.

Fast paced, the movie is predictable though there are some surprises. For instance, the youngest and most innocent Elibidi’s daughter, Mshere, a virgin, gets raped and infected with HIV. At Nairobi Women’s Hospital, the family gathers and George is enraged that he can’t face his men folk again for they will shame him that his family has Aids. He is further shocked when Shiko reveals she, too, has been living with the disease.

George deserts the family and real problems set in. The stigma is rife and the community shuns them. At one scene, Elibidi’s wife, Martha (Sherleen Njeri) together with Mshere are confronted by neighbours, including Agnes (Jacques Nyaminde) who laugh at them and avoid body contact with them lest they get infected. Ironically, the lifestyles of most of the neighbours pointing fingers expose them to HIV infection.

As Elibidi’s family disintegrates, the audience is taken on a rollercoaster of emotions. The movie highlights the way one can get infected as the theme of HIV/Aids is explored creatively, including the misconceptions, wife inheritance, stigma, and the courage to get tested. The Elibidi girls fight amongst themselves and until Petronila drills some sense in them.

They turn a new leaf, live positively and before long, the father comes back home. A happy family once again, their fortunes improve ushering in a happy ending.

Elibidi never lives his youthful dream. From the experience, he becomes a community educator on HIV/Aids.

Nick Reding, a Briton, had been an actor for over 20 years. He has appeared in films Croupier, Mister Johnson, The Constant Gardener, Attenborough and Blood Diamond. In 2001, he came to Kenya and spent five months establishing a peadiatric HIV/Aids clinic in Mombasa.

"While in Mombasa, I realised how big the problem of HIV/Aids was," says Nick, adding that as a result, he created the initial theatre project that grew into Sponsored Arts For Education, SAFE Pwani, which has grown to three companies, SAFE Maa and SAFE Ghetto.

He met Kamau in 2004, and they have been working together since. An actor and a director, Kamau was born and raised in Mathare slum.

He has appeared on TV programmes like Reflections, Asali, and Heartbeat FM besides theatre appearances and films like The First Grader, The Hunting of Dedan Kimathi, The Bush Fire, The Dose and Poison. Both continue to work with SAFE using theatre, combined with community activities and education, to deliver life-saving information about HIV/Aids in the most under-served areas in Kenya.

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Ndoto za Elibidi Dreams of Elibidi Kenyan cinema Alicia Keys