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What happens when a scientist/philosopher from an impoverished African nation takes his American friend on a journey to the place where humankind began?
Kwanini is a new feature-length documentary directed and produced by Emmy Award winning director Sylvia Caminer. Two friends–worlds apart but somehow having found a connection to each other–travel half way around the world to find common ground.
We briefly begin in Miami, Florida where our two principal characters, Venance and Kristen, met and became friends at the University of Miami. Ven left his small village nine years prior to pursue the dream of a college education here in the states. The world they live in now is one of plenty and ease compared to the Africa that awaits them. Ven faces down the trepidation he feels about seeing friends and family members–including his beloved Grandmother–for the first time in nearly nine years. At the same time, Kris admits her preconceived notions about Africa and the conflict she expects to find there which may well be completely off the mark. She goes into the journey with an open mind and a tourist’s sense of excitement that will soon change into something much deeper.
Their journey takes them from the urban center of Dar es Salaam to a small village in the interior of the country where neither Venance nor Kristen have any connections yet they are welcomed with open arms. For the first time, Kris experiences the harsh realities of life in Africa as she watches Ven mash exotic vegetables into a glue-like porridge that sustains the villagers on a day to day basis.
As our travelers reach Moshi, the place where Ven realized his calling in life was to be a scientist, he goes on a heart-wrenching search for the mentor who encouraged him to pursue his dream and therefore changed his life forever. Will he find her after all these years?
Meanwhile, Kris sets her sights on the summit of mighty Mount Kilimanjaro. Ven joins her in the grueling quest to reach the rooftop of Africa and both find they take away much more from the experience than reaching their physical goal.
Then it’s off to the sweltering plains of the Serengeti, where Kris learns to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding natural world and all of its inhabitants. These peaceful days also allow Ven to marvel at the wildlife without the typical sense of fear he experienced growing up.
And finally they arrive at the impoverished village where a Grandmother dreams of seeing the grandson she thought was lost to her forever. We watch Kris for the first time, become an active participant in the world around her, including the life of a sickly, four year old girl feared to be suffering from AIDS. Concurrently Ven struggles to blend his newly learned western philosophy with that of tribal life, cope with the tragedy of friends and family lost to disease and hardship, and somehow come to terms with the blessings of his life that were made possible only through the sacrifice of one amazing woman–his mother.
We are introduced to a very personal Africa — the ancient culture, the contemporary poverty, and the eternal spirituality. It is a dramatic, emotional, visually stunning odyssey that challenges and changes our protagonists forever.