On Lamu island, off the coast of Kenya, donkeys outnumber cars and are key to earning a living.
A small island with 24,000 people, 6,000 donkeys, and just two cars.
Lamu, just off the coast of Kenya, has been called the donkey capital of Africa. It is a place where there are donkey traffic jams, the largest humanitarian organization is a donkey sanctuary, and donkeys are the key to earning a living.
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Shee Famao is 14-years-old. His fondest dream is to have a donkey on his own and take part in the annual donkey race. He hopes to win the grand prize to help his family.
Witness follows Famao to the races, to find out if he can win.
By Vardan Hovhannisyan
My previous film was about war. “A Story of People in War and Peace” received over 20 awards, including the Best New Documentary Film-maker Award at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. It was a deep story about the tragedy of continuing one’s life after the terror and trauma of war.
While I was working on such a tragic film, I kept dreaming of my next film, and I was determined to make it a light-hearted and positive film, full of comedy. I was looking for a story which had all these qualities but could tell an equally profound and important story as my previous film. I wanted to tell a surreal and comic story without compromising the depth of the film’s message. So when I heard about this topic, I immediately felt connected and fell in love with the project.
Why? Well, I was the worst pupil in school with the worst grades of the year, and the teacher called me a donkey. Since then, I have always felt an affinity towards the donkey. When I discovered the hidden treasure of the Lamu island donkeys, I immediately felt a responsibility to bring this piece of gold to the rest of the world. All my life I wanted to become a cosmonaut (the first Armenian spaceman), a clown or a veterinarian. This obscure mix of dreams is what eventually made me become a documentary film-maker.
In this project I was able to combine all my dreams with my profession. Through this small film about the donkeys and the tiny island on which they live, I will tell about the universe, make you laugh until you cry, and offer a caring eye towards the brave and mysterious donkeys.
And now, given the world’s global financial crisis, it seems to be an even more critical time to make this film. It is important to remember how to laugh amidst the gloom of the daily news and it is important to remember that happiness does not necessarily come in the form of a fat bank portfolio—it can be something as simple as owning a donkey.