by Jacqueline Nunes
Ryerson graduate Ahmed Arshi has spent the last year asking himself a question that he believes many people, especially youth, ask themselves: “Why should I care?”
Now Arshi is ready to answer the question.
In association with AIESEC Ryerson, an international student-run leadership organization, Arshi and fellow Ryerson graduate Alex Punzalan travelled to Kenya to collect images for a film they believe will call attention to the problems that plague the African country and will incite youth to act.
The film, Why Should I Care: The Reality Behind Youth, focuses primarily on the Kibera slum in Kenya, the largest slum in Central East Africa and home to 700,000 people. Arshi and Punzalan’s cameras show the poverty of this area alongside short interviews with representatives from community organizations, volunteers, community members and youth. They all have different views about the problems the country faces, but share one common idea: They believe in the power of youth to change the future.
“(Generally, society) is not encouraging youth,” said Arshi, who directed the film. “But we should be. We want to raise global awareness of what youth can do.”
The film was produced as an educational tool Arshi and producer Punzalan hope to screen in high schools to spark discussion about global issues. The amateur filmmakers hope the discussion will lead to positive action, such as volunteering.
“We want youth to not just be touched by the images, but be compelled to act,” Punzalan said.
Although the film focuses on Kenyan youth, Arshi and Punzalan consider youth inaction to be a global issue. One startling clip from the film shows a youth responding to the question, “Who is your role model?”
“No one,” said the Kenyan girl, after giving the question some thought. Her response echoes Arshi and Punzalan’s call to action in making the film and their determination to engage young audiences.
Arshi, who graduated from Ryerson’s engineering program last year and headed the Muslim Students Association, has travelled to more than 20 countries putting into practice his mantra that “youth can make a difference.” He will be returning shortly to Kenya to work for the Red Cross.
Punzalan, who graduated from Ryerson’s business program, has produced more than 12 films and founded a production company that bridges different cultural and musical backgrounds. He also produced the music for the film.
The pair, along with event organizer and Ryerson finance student Oleg Chausovsky, will host a fundraising event called Hip Hop Empathy at the Hacienda Lounge on Sept. 17.
“Hip hop is what a lot of young people listen to and, lately, it’s gotten a bad reputation,” said Chausovsky, who is also a member of AIESEC Ryerson. “We want to show that hip hop is something positive, and we’re going to use it to promote a good cause.”
The evening will feature performances by socially conscious local artists Drek Inkredible, Isis with DJ L’Oqenz and Kamau.
“(These artists) are positive role models for young people,” Chausovsky said.
The trailer for the film will be screened at Hip Hop Empathy, alongside a special performance of an African song that was sung to welcome the filmmakers by the children of a remote rural village in Kenya.
Proceeds will benefit the production of the film and Community Support Group in Nairobi, Kenya.
The premiere of the film will be held in the Ryerson Student Centre on Sept. 19, followed by a discussion period.