A movie produced by a German film student about the 2015 Mandera bus attack in Kenya has just been nominated for an Oscar. The short film, Watu Wote, or Swahili for “All of Us,” tells the story of how average Kenyans resisted Al Shabab. The film premiered in Nairobi Tuesday night and is based on the real-life events of December 21, 2015.
On that day, Al-Shabab militants attacked a bus headed from Nairobi to Mandera, a town at Kenya’s border with Somalia. The terrorists tried to coerce the Muslim passengers to identify the Christians. The passengers refused.
The film depicts the harrowing encounter.
German film student Katja Benrath directed the short film as her graduation project at the Hamburg Media School.
“We felt very good being nominated because this is a huge achievement being nominated, for us, for Gernany and for Kenya,” said Benrath. “It’s just great.”
Kenya, in particular, the country’s border region, has been struck repeatedly by Al Shabab attacks in recent years. Watu Wote explores the tensions that have arisen in Kenya over that violence.
The film’s fictional protagonist is a woman named Jua. She is taking the bus to visit her sick mother. We see Jua get angry at a Muslim boy selling water. A Muslim passenger named Salah Farah later asks her why and Jua says her husband and child had been murdered by terrorists.
Later, during the attack, Salah defends the non-Muslim passengers. He challenges the terrorists on the virtues of what true Islam is all about. Finally they shoot him.
The real-life Salah Farah died from his injuries less than a month after the attack.
In the film, we see Jua sitting in the row behind Salah, her hand placed reassuringly on the injured man’s shoulder as the bus escapes.