From Tanzania to Kansas, comes a man on a mission to change the international film industry, one film at a time.
By: Nneka Onyilofor
Josiah Kibira is that man; the man that came to the U.S. to attend school at Bethany College in Kansas, and ended up founding his own production company, Kibira Films. For more than 20 years in the U.S., Josiah dreamed big, and turned those dreams into reality. By day he’s a software testing engineer, but during the rest of his life, he’s a writer, director, and producer. And it all began with an interest he had in writing scripts as he exercised this interest while he was in college. After college, he moved to Minnesota and began to recruit actors from local Twin Cities colleges and Universities for his first film titled, “Bongoland.”
Many Tanzanian’s may recognize the term “Bongo,” as it is a slang term for the country itself. However, Josiah added a spin to the title of his first featured film by calling it, “Bongoland,” which he describes as a more inclusive term. Bongoland was produced in 2003, which is a film about an immigrant who comes to the U.S. to look for opportunities and runs into a lot of issues that many immigrants can relate to. In this film, the main character makes a decision that brought about the film Bongoland II in 2007. With the support of UCLA, Josiah’s first film proved to be a success in a unique fashion. This uniqueness comes from the fact that both films are spoken in the Swahili language.
Josiah was motivated to do these films in Swahili because there was a lack of movies in this language that is spoken so widely in Africa and in the U.S. Bongoland was performed in about 60 percent Swahili, and in Bongoland II, Swahili was spoken throughout the entire film; 100 percent of the time.
“There are so many things that have to be done that are not known…Africa is full of those people that did great things but it’s only the Edi Amen’s that get the lime light.” There are so many things that are particular to Africa that Hollywood is not interested in,” stated Josiah. Thus, in 2005, Josiah produced a film titled, “Tusamehe,” which means forgiveness, and is about the AIDS epidemic. Swahili is spoken in about 70 percent of this film as well.
So what else can be said about Josiah Kibira? We’ll, his next goal is to continue to break down more barriers. “When you are in Africa, African Americans are looked at as heroes and when I got here, that’s what I was expecting. I was expecting my brothers to embrace me, but it was different,” he stated. This reality is going to open up a dialogue about the relationship between Africans and African Americans in the U.S. in Josiah’s upcoming documentary titled, “Two Africas in America.
” The ultimate goal of this documentary is to dispel the myths that both cultures have about the other and to begin the healing process that is well needed. Currently Josiah is marketing and promoting his films at film festivals in the U.S., UK, and Tanzania. His films have already been featured in various film festivals including the Pan-African film festival in Los Angeles.
“Most of the movies I do are very male centered…you need to find something that is female centered people told me.” Thus, a film that many women can relate to is another project Josiah is working on in addition to his upcoming documentary.
For more information you can email email@example.com or go to http://www.kibirafilms.com/. Look out for a preview of Josiah Kibira’s new documentary at the African Global Roots Art Festival on July 25th, 2009 from 5pm-midnight at the Grand Rios Ramada Hotel in Brooklyn Park, MN.