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Gun Runners

Anjali Nayar
2016 | 89 minutes
Country of Production: Canada
Country Featured: Kenya
Director in Attendance 

This remarkable story of two warriors is an urgent and inspiring reminder that cycles of violence can be broken with vision and willpower. Julius Arile and Robert Matanda were among the fiercest militiamen in Northern Kenya for years. As part of an ongoing initiative to disarm the conflict-ridden region, Arile and Matanda trade in their guns for sneakers and pursue the lifelong dream of becoming professional marathon runners.

Co-presented by African Film Festival, Inc.

Activate: My Perspective 

“It’s an interesting question because I think my main feeling or desire through the making of this film was to step back from the way films from the Global South (some of them mine) are destined to activate. There’s a lot of funding out there to make social justice films in Africa but it’s gotten to the point where the narratives we hear focus so strongly on the bad (the disease, the corruption, the slums) that the world doesn’t realize there’s more. 

Gun Runners is the story of two men who group up with a million obstacles in their way—in particular poverty and violence. But I wanted to show the other side of the story. A story about friendship, community, dreams, and second chances. I wanted to document three-dimensional life with all its nuances— something we see so rarely from Kenya and many other countries around the world.

But this process activated me. It clarified my understanding of the opportunity to present different narratives and the power of the stories we choose to tell. In telling theses families’ stories so intimately, I grew to love them as friends and when two of them died in a car crash I took on something I never realized I was capable of—helping care for their children for life.

So perhaps it was my understanding of “activation” that was wrong. Perhaps the focus is not the activation but the story, the journey, and the love, which then brings activation anyways.”

—  Anjali Nayar | Director, Gun Runners