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Documentary crew dedicates spare time to tell inspiring story

My Heart in Kenya was filmed in two weeks and the post-production work took four years.

Hunter Wood and Ruth Beardsley behind the scenes of filming My Heart in Kenya. Courtesy of My Heart in Kenya.
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Reported by Allison Hayes

The production team of, My Heart in Kenya, is finally reaping the rewards of the voyage of this part-time endeavour.

The self-funded, voluntary project that had the team members working outside of their full time jobs in the T.V. industry completed the documentary by working overtime. The documentary captures the struggle Zeynab Muhammed experienced after fleeing to Kenya to escape civil war in her native Ethiopia — then fighting to be reunited with the newborn baby she was forced to leave behind.

After an intense two-week shoot period in Africa four years ago, the crew slogged through four years of post-production work — all part-time, said Trev Renney, the writer and one of the film’s producers. He said the driving force was knowing they had a great story that was going to grip viewers.

“Filming only took a couple of weeks but it took about four years to cut, which is crazy,” Renney said. “When you are making a documentary you do have to have a crazy work ethic if you ever want to see it get finished because you know you aren’t getting paid for it.

“Nobody makes money off a documentary.”

Before fleeing, Muhammed had completed the Canadian immigration paperwork for herself and her five children but became pregnant with her sixth child, Nasteha, and could not bring her to Canada.

Ruth Beardsley, one of the principals in the documentary and the social worker who travelled to Kenya to go get Muhammed’s daughter and bring her to Canada, said it was a lot more stressful than anticipated.

“Before we went to Kenya, it took three and a half years to get the paperwork,” Beardsley said. “[The film] was something off the side of their desk. There was no budget for it. I mean all of this was done through volunteer efforts.”

In contrast to the slow grind of post-production, Director Hunter Wood said the African shoot was fast-paced and strenuous.

“It was an exhausting cycle. The craziest day was when we flew back, we basically filmed 24 hours straight,” Wood said.

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