Just Do It – My Story as a Filmmaker in the Slums of Nairobi
I saw reporters did not get things about Mathare right. They misrepresent it. So I decided to become a filmmaker to correct this weakness and follow my passion.
Kenya, Eastern Africa
When I was running against the crowds towards the Nairobi hotel where the attack happened, I was not scared. We were the first reporters on the scene: me, another cameraman, and the journalist. First, we could not tell if it was a terrorist attack or a robbery. We only saw people running away from the hotel, while we were running towards it. But when we saw two people that were shot, lying on the ground, we realized it was a terrorist attack. The hotel was a big space and we needed at least to be covered by a wall behind you, to protect us from shooters. Looking back at the footage I filmed, I realized this situation had been very dangerous, and probably not such a good idea. We didn’t have any protective gear. I thanked God that we got out safely. Other people were just filming this from far. I went to the place and filmed the true story.
When I was young, I wanted to become a professional football player. Like many of my friends in Mathare, I wanted to play for our local clubs like Mathare United or Real Mathare. Or even better, European clubs like Manchester United or Real Madrid. There was only one real football pitch in the neighborhood, the Mathare Depot Field. My friends and I owned the pitch; for years we were the best players. For some reason, people didn’t like us for it. I loved it, and wanted to have a life like on the Coca-Cola billboards in town: “Eat football. Sleep football. Drink Coca-Cola.” However, things turned out differently and I needed to find another purpose in life.
I saw reporters did not get things about Mathare right. For example, when a fight happens somewhere down in the slum, ‘outsiders’ think it’s too dangerous to go down there and find out the reasons behind the fight. They misrepresent it. So, 13 years ago, I decided to become a filmmaker to correct this weakness. Because I’m from Mathare, I can go to those places and film exactly what happens. Since I played football when I was young, people know me and trust me. Some know me as ‘Elijah the football player’ and others as ‘Elijah the filmmaker’.
Being a filmmaker is my passion: I am personally motivated to share stories from my society, which is Mathare society. I want to get the true story out. Usually, I present positive stories, because too much negativity can get to your head. However, I always aim to be factual and honest to my audience, because they depend on me as a reporter, as a filmmaker. One example is that I recently covered serious topics such as the police violence related COVID-19 here in the slums. With my documentary, I shared the situation in Mathare on the Dutch NOS news, the BBC, and other channels.
My dream is to one day make a documentary of my own story/life. I hope to motivate young people from the slums and make them believe that they can do whatever they want to do. To live a free life, true to themselves. They just need to do it.
 Mathare is a collection of slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Approximately 500,000 people live there.
 Check out the Dutch NOS item here: https://nos.nl/video/2346202-elijah-filmt-het-politiegeweld-in-zijn-sloppenwijk.html, and the BBC item here: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-53025934
 Elijah already supports people from the slums with his youth initiative Sauti. Young people are mentored to get hands-on experience with filming, arts, and other skills. To become what they want to become. Check out Sauti: https://www.facebook.com/watch/TVSauti/ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFlrToASX3c&t=5s&ab_channel=SautiTv.
How does this story make you feel?
Do you have any questions after reading this story? Do you want to follow-up on what you've just read? Get in touch with our team to learn more! Send an email to [email protected].
Talk about this Story
Please enable cookies to view the comments powered by Disqus.
Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter
Stay up to date with new stories on Correspondents of the World by subscribing to our monthly newsletter:
The Balinese Genocide Through the Eyes of I Made Susantha Balian and his Granddaughter
A story by I Made Susantha Balian
10 min Long Read English Audio available
Veronica recently found out that her grandfather had witnessed a historical genocide in Bali, Indonesia, when he was a teenager. Her family encouraged her to interview him. This is his story. Read more...
A story by Andy Lee
A story by Vandana Lekhi
When Vandana retired from working as a lawyer due to her mental health, she founded an NGO in honour of her mother and started teaching prisoners. Read how she experienced prison work as a former lawyer. Read more...
Explore other Topics
At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.
Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.
Correspondents of the World is not just this website, but also a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.