Low Tide

Photo from Low TideStory and background information about the short feature video: Low Tide.

'LOW TIDE' is a short, but almost true story... It is a drama about love, money, desperation and hope. It is inspired by stories picked up in Kenya at the time of production. Being improvised, the story is simple, but hopefully without prejudices. The story is dealing with problems, which are impossible to ignore in a country like Kenya.


The situation in Kenya 1997/1998

Riots and clashes

The offset of the video is Kenya 1998. A country and people with problems - more than usually. There are ups and downs everywhere, but some really hard time started in Kenya August 1997.

Mombasa. Photo from Low TideAhead of the presidential elections, riots started in the coastal province. Political and ethnic clashes were totally out of control. Many people were killed or on the run. The riots started with a raid on a Police station in the Mombasa suburb of Likoni. Dangerous prisoners were on the loose with piles of stolen weapons. After this followed weeks of fear, death and burned houses on the coast from Mombasa to Malindi. Old respected tribesmen and leaders from the youth organisation of the ruling party KANU, seems to have been involved in raising the anger against upcountry people settling on the coast. Similar violent scenes were seen in the Rift Valley before the 1992-election. Read more details in The Nation: Ethnic Clashes Inquiry 1991-98. Riots started again in the Rift Valley area following the election 1998. The election was once again won by Daniel Arap Moi.

El Niño

Even before the riots had died out - the rain started pouring. The El Niño was hitting hard in specially in Somalia, but also Kenya had floods and an aftermath of diseases. The important road and railway from the coast to Nairobi and Uganda were closed for long periods of time. In the slum areas, landslides buried people and houses.

January, which is normally the peak of the tourist season, was a disaster in 1998. The rain poured down spoiling safaris and beach-vacations for the few remaining tourists. The tourist industry of Kenya was more dead than alive at this time. By July everything was quiet again and the surviving coast hotels started opening again. And then... a terrorist bomb-blast in the central Nairobi killing hundreds. Surely not a year that will be forgotten in Kenya.

The story of 'Low Tide'

Wataku and Pendo

Wataku is a young guy working as a waiter on a Mombasa south-coast resort. But the weather and other factors has made the low season 'lower' than usually. Several hotels have been forced to close. Wataku and many others are put on a leave 'until further notice'. That is a leave without salary or any kind of social welfare of course.

Photo from low TideWataku is only 20 years old, but he has several obligations as the only man in his family. The father left the family years ago and Wataku is responsible for paying schoolfees for two younger sisters. He couldn't have the education himself, and now the small family depends on his income. This is a constructed story, but certainly not an unusual situation.

Wataku is also in love and plans to marry his girlfriend Pendo. But love and marriage in a country, which is still very traditional, demands a dower or bride price to be paid by the groom. Without money, there is no chance of getting married.

When Wataku looses his hotel job all of his future-plans suddenly fall apart. Pendo is a modern city-girl not concerned about traditions and dower. But her father probably is - and either way: Wataku has lost all pride and self-confidence. He is ashamed and decides to break with Pendo, when he meets her shortly after being sacked.

On the way from the south coast to Mombasa Wataku's wallet is snatched by a thief. Wataku is definitely the unluckiest guy in Kenya that day. After seeing Pendo, he decides to go to the local hangout place to talk to his friends. But most of them are in a similar situation and it is not really helping when he is told to be strong in his faith.

Photo from Low TideTo top this heap of problems Wataku has been borrowing money from some really bad characters. The local 'Mafia' Mr. Osagyefo wants his money back and there is no understanding or soft feelings. There seem to be only one solution. Wataku is forced to help Osagyefo with some risky and probably dirty business.

In desperation Wataku plans to run away from it all and even leave the girlfriend behind. He has lost all confidence in himself and he no longer feels worthy of the devotion of Pendo. But Pendo reaches him in the last minute before Osagyefo's group is back. She does not intend to let him go and tells him that she is pregnant. A baby is surely not what Wataku needs right now. But Wataku is in love and he has a different reaction that one should expect. He is choosing to take it as good news, a sign of a new start -and in that moment everything changes. Wataku is ready again - with dreams and courage.

Wataku and Pendo escapes Mr. Osagyefo and runs away to an unknown future. The friend of Wataku who is telling the story has not seem them since, but he too is hopefull:

Photo from Low Tide"In the end nothing really bad happened... Wataku and Pendo moved away from here. The good weather has returned now, and I think even the tourists are returning soon. Best of all, I know that dreams, courage and joy of life returned to Wataku when he got together with Pendo again. That is what we all really need to make a change come. I often think about them. I imagine that they will soon have a small daughter, start their own business and that they live a place, where there is never a low tide. ...at least ...that is how I wish it could be."

The video

The aim of the video is to show a glimpse of African daily life and bring attention to the problems 20-year old Wataku faces the day he is sacked. The style is drama-documentary. The starting point is very true, but the end is probably to good to be... It will be half way through the video before most people realise whether they are watching a documentary or a feature film. The documentary offset will hopefully force the audience to give the 'fairytale happy-end' an extra spin.

MORE: Article from the Nation newspaper: 25,000 workers laid off as tourism slumps





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