Kenya's Tosh Gitonga wins top award for 'Two Villages' documentary at the Open World Toronto Film Festival

Kenya's Tosh Gitonga wins top award for 'Two Villages' documentary at the Open World Toronto Film Festival

Tosh Gitonga and his team during the making of 'Two Villages' documentary. Photo I Two Villages Movie

By Lynn Ndinda

Acclaimed Kenyan Film director Tosh Gitonga has been awarded a Best Documentary award for his "Two Villages” work at the Open World Toronto Film Festival (OWTFF).

Taking to LinkedIn to share the good news, Tosh Gitonga wrote "And Another….. Grateful To Sir God for this journey!" as he shared a congratulatory message from the festival organisers.

"Dear Tosh,

Congratulations on winning the award for Best Documentary for Two Villages at the Open World Toronto Film Festival (OWTFF).

We would like to welcome you to the festival, which takes place June 28 to June 30, 2024 at the Factory Theatre in Toronto," read part of the message.

The Two Villages documentary film which is based on the Swahili proverb "Ndovu wawili wakipigana, nyasi ndio huumia" (When two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled) is a critic of the scandalous work achieved by the NGO WE Charity.

"Two Villages tells the story of the parallel existences of Chemengwa and its counterpart across the flowing Mara River. On one riverbank, a village blooms, nourished by the benevolence of the North American-based NGO, We Charity. It has become a beacon of progress, with clean water quenching the thirst of 30 communities, 852 schoolrooms echoing with laughter and learning, and a hospital standing as a fortress against illness," reads the docu's synopsis.

As one village flourishes, across the river, Chemengwa village is wallowing in obscene poverty in what the documentary describes as "Women, their backs bowed, trudge daily to the Mara River, their only water source. The nearest hospital is a gruelling 80 kilometres away, a journey of uncertainty."

The donor foundation WE Charity, formerly Free the Children, was exposed to have deceived its donors under the guise of building two schools while only setting one up and leaving the residents of Chengemwa to hang on to a forgotten promise.

An investigation by CBC's The Fifth Estate revealed that WE Charity routinely misled school-aged children and wealthy philanthropists across North America for years as it solicited millions for schoolhouses in Kenya and other projects in its Adopt-A-Village program.

WE denies it has misled donors.

Years later, Tosh seeks to make a difference in the lives of its residents as they were promised and this documentary is his way of reaching out to have their story heard around the world.

"Drawn by the jarring disparity and then captivated by the unyielding spirit of Chemengwa's people, Tosh Gitonga bid farewell to his comfortable life in Nairobi. He embarked on a journey — one steeped in metaphor and harsh reality alike — to the heart of the Mara. What he discovered was a landscape of stark contrasts, a community precariously balanced between the abyss of despair and the precipice of hope," reads a statement on the documentary's website.

The docu-film has also recently been awarded laurels for Official Selection and walked away with the prestigious award for The Best Short at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival (JDIFF) at their recently concluded award ceremony in May 2024.

Mr Gitonga is best known for his award-winning film Nairobi Half Life which was selected as Kenya’s entry to the 85th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

His latest work Volume, a teen drama series is currently airing on Netflix.


Tosh Gitonga Nairobi Half Life Two Villages WE Charity Open World Toronto Film Festival

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