January 11, 2010 – A Kenyan story has touched the lives of millions of Americans in the past week, portraying a very different picture from the machete masterpiece that claimed thousands of lives in early 2008.
It tells the tale of Kenyan blood ties that run deeper than politics and deeper than the 44 tribes.
Airing on various channels in New York, Boston, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle from the 1-4 of January, local TV radio drama “The Team” poses the question; ‘can a soap opera bring about social change?’
“The Team” is about soccer players from different tribes who work together to overcome deeply rooted rivalries and form a common bond for the mere purpose of being the formidable force they can be.
According to organisers, the similarities drawn between team-mates and Kenyans at large are stark and too compelling to ignore.
Here’s the synopsis:
“A shattered peace and second chances: the possibility for a better future forms the basis for The Team, which tells the stories of seven young Kenyan footballers from different tribes who must overcome their mutual distrust so that their team, Imani (Faith) F.C., has a shot at winning a world-wide tournament.”
“The team dramatises ways of handling ethnic and socio-economic divisions, reflecting the desire of Kenyans to live together in harmony.”
Milly Mugadi, who stars in the drama, says she was very surprised by the desire that Kenyans have for change and peace, as demonstrated by the massive response they received when the TV show aired in Kenya last May.
“There were people from different tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with each other… they opened up their hearts,” she reveals.
The Team is co-produced by Media Focus on Africa and Search for Common Ground; an international conflict prevention NGO.
Common Ground President John Marks says; “You don’t watch one of our television shows and drop your submachine gun, but you can change the environment so it becomes more and more difficult to be in violent conflict.”
Several Kenyan youth who watched the show are waiting for the second season which has only just begun production.
The Imani F.C. players represent Kenya’s diverse population: rich and poor, male and female, urban and rural, and everything in between.
During the 26-part series, which had to do an encore due to its popularity, each player and coach have a unique and troubled past, which ruffles feathers. But in their quest for victory, the team must cooperate in order to score goals.
Despite the difficulty that this presents, they manage to resolve various issues and discover that their common-streak is far deeper than the differences that keep them apart.
The series was locally written, shot and produced and has a completely Kenyan feel to it.
It was produced in direct response to the dark events following the disputed 2007 elections, where tribal animosities that had been suppressed for several decades erupted in ugly scenes of brother killing brother, and neighbour killing neighbour.
I long for a Kenya in which we are all going to be proud of our ethnicity and, instead of using it negatively, use our diversity to realise more progress.
– Mburugu Gikunda, Executive Producer, The Team
On the football pitch, as in everyday life, cooperation, respect and tolerance are values that will make all of us real winners. The TV drama series The Team has managed to capture this philosophy in an informative, entertaining and eye-opening way.
– Lord Triesman, Chairman, English Football Association
Anybody will tell you that it’s an artistic no-no to bludgeon your audience, week in week out with a didactic message. The great challenge in creating “‘The Team’” was to couch the message of reconciliation and tolerance within the soft underbelly of a good and entertaining story, well told. As a script consultant I shall retain fond memories of the heated but committed debate that ignited the writing process, drawing on Deborah Jones’’ production experience and George Kut’s knowledge of conflict resolution. For me the mantra was always “Keep it credible!”” It’s now over to the final decision makers – our audience – to rule on how right or wrong we got in the end. I think they’ll like it!”
– John Sibi-Okumu, THE TEAM script analyst
Series like The Team have been produced in about ten other African and Asian countries, including Cote D’Ivoire and Nepal.