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I Promise Africa
Public Service Announcement
Director: Jerry Henry
Producer: Jerry Henry
Winner of the Jury Award
ABOUT THE FILM
More About I Promise Africa from Director Jerry Henry
I went to Kenya in late August of 2001 to shoot a documentary about HIV-positive orphans for a charitable organization. This was my first time in Africa and I was extremely excited. I was there for about a month and during that time the World Trade Center collapsed but I had no knowledge of any of this. I was in a rural village where there were no newspapers, televisions or even running water. I filmed these children on a daily basis and with every spare opportunity I could get, I played with them and showed them my digital camcorder. They had never seen a camera like this and everyday no matter where I was shooting, they followed me everywhere. During my last days in the village, the villageâ€™s leader gave me the name Thoun. It means â€œheroâ€ in their native tongue Luoh.
On September 20th I left Kenya and was on my way to Amsterdam. I decided to stop there for a few days before I returned to the US. Still I had no knowledge of what happened. It wasnâ€™t until I was checking in at Airport Schiphol and the guards seized my pocketknife and tweezers from my carry on luggage. I argued with them but all that they could tell me was there was a high security alert in the US and these items would not be allowed on any plane to America. I boarded the plane to find that there were only about 50 passengers on a Boeing 747! When we finally arrived at LAX, I knew something was wrong. The terminal was completely empty except for the hundreds of police officers and soldiers in full combat gear. I waited for a taxi at the passenger pickup until a police officer, who observed me for 30 minutes, walked up to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was waiting for a taxi and if he knew why everything was so empty. I thought they were shooting a movie or something at the airport. His first question was â€œWhere have you been?â€ â€œWhat do you mean?â€ I replied. He paused for a second and said, â€œYou really donâ€™t know what happened do you?â€ I replied with a strange look on my face and he continued, â€œThe World Trade Center was attacked in New York and thousands of people died. There wonâ€™t be any taxis coming here for while. Youâ€™re best bet is to walk.â€ At that point was when I realized something happened while I was away in Africa.
That day, I received the first email, among many, that one of the children who appears in the film had died. It put the entire trip into perspective. It made me realize that regardless of where you are in the world, tragedy is something that everyone experiences; sometimes simultaneously. No matter how big or small it is we must always remember to never forget. I made this film to keep my promise to the children I met on my first trip to Africa.
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