Interview with Jason James, Director of the web series “Yalaiti”
“Yalaiti”, an upcoming web series about a journey of a newly homeless man and his life with street children, a heart-touching story of survival in Tanzania. (watch the trailer at the end of the article.)
M: What is your involvement in this film and how did it come about?
JJ: I am the film director and editor. I run a startup enterprise called SwahiliShot Studios where with my colleagues we thought to do something on the subject of Homelessness and Street Children in Dar es Salaam. We both strongly feel that the subject of Street Children is almost left “invisible” though the eyes of our community when it comes to identifying the real needs and how we see it as the problem.
M: Can you tell us the language that you shot the film in and why?
JJ: The language used in the film is Swahili, which is spoken as first language by a majority in East Africa. Swahili language will communicate our message effectively as it’s the language spoken by the affected group “Street Children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania” However we will include English Subtitles and scriptural Motifs that will hopefully keep both English speakers and Swahili interested in watching the film.
M: What is the main plot of this film and what inspired it? Give us a little backstory on Denis…
JJ: Background info: Thousands of people mostly youth move every year from rural areas of Tanzania in search of green pasture in the city of Dar es Salaam. Denis represents a middle-aged person who moves to Dar es salaam only to unexpectedly become homeless.
The plot revolves around Denis trying to make a living in the strange streets of Dar es Salaam and find his way through learning how Homeless Children make their living. But as an adult from time to time he fails to be in their shoes or tolerate what happens to the kids. He seeks solutions from making them get along and earn a life (meals and sleep spots) while face a brutality and injustice of the life in streets.This plot was inspired by regular charity visits to the street kids i took part and managed to see and hear stories from the homeless children were we spent a reasonable time with them.
M: Is this a common theme that occurs in Tanzania and/or all of Africa?
JJ: No. There are few films that have used a theme in a sense of young people living in Slums which is a different from living on streets. This theme seeks a whole new dimensional dialogue of African storytelling as well as serve a social change making purpose towards the problem of homeless children.
M: What is the background and country where the film was shot? What were some difficulties that you have to overcome during shooting?
JJ: We shot the preview of YALAITI in two locations from Dar es salaam, Tanzania one in a Train, and the second in a village close to Dar es salaam. The major difficulty was sound recording due to failure in equipment that we use to record so I had to improvise and record directly from a boom mic straight to an audio recording software in a laptop that the recorder could not hear the quality of the sound input.
Due to a small budget, we went to the location (village location) same day we were to shoot which by little surprise we found that the village had no electricity lines installed so we end up relying on the power that camera batteries had only and made me to shoot in a worry and hurry. I managed to provide a small budget for the two scenes and the team who understands the meaning of this project and work hard to make it happen. We faced some unexpected locations costs such as permits but the small budget we had saved the day.
M: Budget-wise, please explain your reasoning for you budget and how this compares to other independent film budgets show in that genre and region.
Above it is the description of how I will allocate the budget of $4000 USD. We hope that we will be able to fundraise through our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign the goal is to set a benchmark in storytelling and actually hit the marks that are needed for the cast and production crew to have an environment which enables them to deliver the most of their talents allow us to achieve the goal of telling a desirable story for community to reach for sustainable solutions towards the homeless Children.
M: How do the homeless children react to being filmed for this project? How does this make the film like a documentary and a fictional story at the same time?
JJ: The homeless children generally react really positive towards engaging them on any talent they believe they have respectively however in this project on key roles we will not use the true homeless children because of the sensitivity of the roles.Most organizations “use” Homeless Children with no actual impact in their lives. We plan to use Art to deliver a message that will help them be reach by people and organizations and be presented by useful solutions based on their consent and inquiry.
M: Do you intend to relate this film to any political action?
JJ: Yes, in a way that we hope to inspire individuals, community organizations and the government to use the insights and knowledge from this film and start up or strengthen campaigns to help street children in manner that is sustainable.
M: What do you hope to accomplish by completing this film?
JJ: By completing this film we hope to get more individuals, NGO’s and Governmental organizations to learn or find insight on what are the true causes, problems facing the street Children as well as understand what they really need as help then react towards it in a way that will be useful for them to regain proper shelter, education and some taken back to their family.
M: What other African films or films in general are you inspired by?
JJ: Am inspired by films such as Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigerian, 2013), Tsotsi (South African, 2005) and Nairobi Half Life (Kenyan, 2012) both of these film deliver a story in a way that I would want to tell an African story.
M: Does the film include a traditional African soundtrack and if so who will be featured on it?
JJ: Yes. The title Yalaiti which means “I wish it was…” Has a connection to a traditional song called “Yalaiti” that will use it as part of it as soundtrack and also come up with our own original songs.
We will feature characters that are relevant to the story. 5 kids who represents the types of kids who live on streets however will add some components such as the musical factor to 1 of the Street Child character to make the story more sensitive and touching to the audience.
To keep it interesting, there will also be a love plot that goes by with Denis which will also use not traditional but rather classical 1970’s Tanzanian Music.
To contact Jason about Yalaiti: