Monday, August 16

Considering "The Team"

Living now without a TV and without the funds to make regular visits to the cinema possible, I've been spending more time than usual looking for free alternatives online and came across The Team (That's a link to the YouTube account if you want to get straight to watching the episodes. If you would prefer the more ponderous official homepage, you can try that link.).

In their words:

This series is a metaphor of Kenyan society. The team members and the coach have been brought together from many of Kenyas tribal groups to play together on a co-ed league. The league has been formed and financed by a group of wealthy international philanthropists and businessmen who believe sport will be a way to neutralize the ethnic hatred that shook Kenya after the last elections.

"The characters are from broken families, even as Kenya itself, is a broken country. In that way, the team becomes a surrogate family for our players. They all want a family but no one knows how to reach out and get it. Each of the players, and the coach, struggle to overcome ethnic hatred that sparked violent confrontations after the elections. The purpose of the series is to show that it is possible for people to overcome their differences for the good of all."

The press releases, with language much in the same vein, for the series from Search for Common Ground and Media Focus on Africa Foundation can be found here and here.

In my words, that's great. I hope the money is well accounted for and a few minds that previously thought the best response to a botched presidential election is killing a neighbor are changed, but I doubt it. Just skipping past my inclination to believe only a fraction of the seed money filtered down to the cast and crew (The Department for International Development kicked in 1,628,461 pound sterling to Search for Common Ground in 2009, and they're only one of over fifty major international organizational donors. That does not include the hundreds of individual donors.) how many people honestly believe this will work? I thought these sorts of things were heavy handed when I was in elementary. By the time I got to high school and we were watching videos to teach us best driving practices, it was beyond ridiculous. Maybe this comes from a childhood spent in America where everyone is trying to sell you something or convince you to vote for a particular candidate, but even Jesus told parables that hid the true message to make it more palatable for the people. Let's not insult Kenyans either but explaining point by point what the point is. Make something entertaining. Show some Kikuyu and Kalenjin treating each other with respect. Don't have the coach explain they need to overcome their tribal animosity. Call it good.

Soccer is an interesting choice for the subject. It's natural on the one hand. Soccer is as popular in Kenya as anywhere else. Basing a show on the trials and tribulations and games of a club provides an immediate audience looking for a fix between weekend English Premier League matches. On the other hand, the history of soccer is not the cleanest in Kenya. Kenya Football Federation was suspended by FIFA a few years ago for any number of instances of corruption and violations of basic statutes. It has been since replaced by Football Kenya Limited though history has yet to demonstrate it is an improvement. The two most popular and consistently successful teams of the Kenya Premier League, AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia, are immensely tribal. AFC was formerly Afaluhya United, and Gor Mahi was formed through the merging of Luo United and Luo Stars. Sofapaka won the league title last year, though, largely through the efforts of Congolese refugees, so I don't know how strong the tribal ties remain.

All that being writ, it was kind of comforting to see people eating and enjoying ugali and saying things like "sawa sawa" and "poa."

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