Sophia Tewa (’09) Wins Documentary Film Award

  • By CUNY J-School Staff

Filmmaker Sophia Tewa
Sophia Tewa’s documentary, The People the Rain Forgot, about how climate change and drought have ravaged Kenya, was named Best Documentary Feature at the Winter 2012 Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood.

Tewa, a native of France, is a 2009 alumna of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a graduate of CUNY’s Lehman College. She has worked with CNN and CBS and teaches multimedia production at the Meridian, Lehman’s student news site.

The People the Rain Forgot is the first documentary she directed and produced. She said she became interested in covering the drought in Kenya and the efforts of people to fight global warming by scouring obscure international and U.S. news outlets for ideas. “I want to paint intimate portraits of regular people in extraordinary circumstances, but whose stories are overlooked or under-told,” she said. She added that she hopes by telling these stories, she gives people in the power the impetus to make change.

Here is her synopsis of the film:

The People the Rain Forgot is the story of how climate change and drought has ravaged the livelihoods of millions in Kenya, home to one of Africa’s most vibrant economies.The documentary follows the country’s farmers and nomadic pastoralists as they grapple with land that will no longer sustain their livestock or feed their families. In this journey, we encountered men and women who never lost hope in the face of a changing world. It’s been four years since many of the country’s Northeastern areas haven’t had sufficient rain to feed their livestock and water their crops. Malnutrition rates there have drastically risen since the drought started, with 2.4 million people in need of food assistance, according to the World Food Program.

Kenya’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and some of its citizens wonder whether God is punishing them for their failure to properly steward the land. Others contend that the phenomenon of global warming is man-made and that they can help combat the sustained dry seasons they’ve endured. This film will take you from the border of Ethiopia to the margins of Somalia where more and more Africans are experiencing this new climate.

Global warming is often presented as a hypothesis, the effects of which only our grandchildren will have to face. The People That the Rain Forgot shows that its results are manifest in the world right now and that its consequences are dire. Scientists have shown that the warming of the oceans, caused by the increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere’s ozone layer, is linked to the irregular rainfall patterns that have inundated the Horn of Africa with sustained droughts.

The film records the despair and desperation of a people in thrall to massive, life-changing alterations to their natural environments. But it’s also the tale of people who have chosen to not give up and fight back against a force they did not create. From the village people who build a water dam with their own hands, to the farmers who create a microclimate in their valley by planting thousands of tree seedlings, this film is the story of people who find the courage and determination to try and make the rain fall again.