I Promise Africa
Public Service Announcement
Jerry Henry, Writer/Director/Producer/Editor
Winner of the Jury Award Sponsored by National Film Network
While making a documentary about orphans, a filmmaker preserves the voices of a generation that will soon be silenced.
More About I Promise Africa from Director Jerry Henry
I went to Kenya in late August of 2001 to shoot a documentary about HIV-positive orphans for a charitable organization. This was my first time in Africa and I was extremely excited. I was there for about a month and during that time the World Trade Center collapsed but I had no knowledge of any of this. I was in a rural village where there were no newspapers, televisions or even running water. I filmed these children on a daily basis and with every spare opportunity I could get, I played with them and showed them my digital camcorder. They had never seen a camera like this and everyday no matter where I was shooting, they followed me everywhere. During my last days in the village, the village's leader gave me the name Thoun. It means "hero" in their native tongue Luoh.
On September 20th I left Kenya and was on my way to Amsterdam. I decided to stop there for a few days before I returned to the US. Still I had no knowledge of what happened. It wasn't until I was checking in at Airport Schiphol and the guards seized my pocketknife and tweezers from my carry on luggage. I argued with them but all that they could tell me was there was a high security alert in the US and these items would not be allowed on any plane to America. I boarded the plane to find that there were only about 50 passengers on a Boeing 747! When we finally arrived at LAX, I knew something was wrong. The terminal was completely empty except for the hundreds of police officers and soldiers in full combat gear. I waited for a taxi at the passenger pickup until a police officer, who observed me for 30 minutes, walked up to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was waiting for a taxi and if he knew why everything was so empty. I thought they were shooting a movie or something at the airport. His first question was "Where have you been?" "What do you mean?" I replied. He paused for a second and said, "You really don't know what happened do you?" I replied with a strange look on my face and he continued, "The World Trade Center was attacked in New York and thousands of people died. There won't be any taxis coming here for while. You're best bet is to walk." At that point was when I realized something happened while I was away in Africa.
That day, I received the first email, among many, that one of the children who appears in the film had died. It put the entire trip into perspective. It made me realize that regardless of where you are in the world, tragedy is something that everyone experiences; sometimes simultaneously. No matter how big or small it is we must always remember to never forget. I made this film to keep my promise to the children I met on my first trip to Africa.
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Jerry Henry, Director/Producer
In August 1999 Jerry A. Henry was selected as one of 6 aspiring young filmmakers to serve as a unit director/videographer on the PBS documentary series Senior Year. He spent a year documenting the lives of 3 senior high school students at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. The 13-part series aired on PBS in 2001 and was critically acclaimed. Immediately after completing the series he returned to the University of California's prestigious MFA Production Program and completed his third year with an emphasis on digital media and cinematography. BRAVO Networks employed his talents again for the second season of the hit reality series The It Factor. He served as Unit Director/ Cinematographer for 11 months for the 13 part reality series that follows 9 actors living in Los Angeles. The series goes behind the scenes as actors audition for film and TV roles. During Sept of 2001, Jerry was commissioned by the organization Urgent Africa to complete a documentary on the opening of the NIA Health and Resource Center in the rural village of Majiwa in Kenya, Africa. This clinic was built to facilitate the health care of orphans with HIV/AIDS in this rural community. While he was there he lived with and documented the lives of a tribe of Moran warriors living in Samburu, Kenya. He is currently serving as cinematographer for the independent documentary The Grace Lee Project. This film is a poignant look at the lives of women named Grace Lee and is a humorous yet critical exploration of what it means to be a contemporary Asian female in America. In November 2002, Jerry traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to shoot the upcoming film BRAZILIANTIME. This documentary is a visual essay that combines modern hip hop turntablism, jazz instrumentation and traditional Brazilian percussion together on one stage. He is currently working as a videographer for Peter Jennings at ABC on a documentary that is covering the first year of the LAPD police Chief Bratton and a documentary series entitled USC Medical for Discovery Channel Health. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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