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Jason Seaver

And sometimes that "more important" can also overlap with "not as well-reported as it should be in the West". That's the case with "Watu Wote" (given an English title of "All of Us"), which opens with text describing the tensions between Christians and Muslims on the border between Kenya and Ethiopia, in particular noting the large number of attacks by terrorist group Al-Shabaab. That's the reason why Jue (Adelyne Wairimu) asks whether the bus from Nairobi to Rhamu will have a police escort in the more dangerous areas; she's also visibly - and sometimes vocally - unnerved by the number of Muslims on the bus. Of course, when the journey reaches that homestretch, the police car overheats and is unable to follow.

The incident that follows seems to have been something of a notable one in that region of Africa, but it's noteworthy that director Katja Benrath and primary screenwriter Julia Drache do not exactly play it up as revolutionary or necessary even unusual. Jua's rosary beads have been exchanged for a head covering almost before the audience realizes what has happened, and teacher Salah Farah (Abdiwali Farrah) pushes back against their attackers without dramatic pauses between his words or a dramatic swell to the score. This pivotal, climactic scene is not necessarily more tense for how the filmmakers play it; it may actually let a bit of the air out. I'm curious as to whether this was a ...

And sometimes that “more important” can also overlap with “not as well-reported as it should be in the West”. That’s the case with “Watu Wote” (given an English title of “All of Us”), which opens with text describing the tensions between Christians and Muslims on the border between Kenya and Ethiopia, in particular noting the large number of attacks by terrorist group Al-Shabaab. That’s the reason why Jue (Adelyne Wairimu) asks whether the bus from Nairobi to Rhamu will have a police escort in the more dangerous areas; she’s also visibly – and sometimes vocally – unnerved by the number of Muslims on the bus. Of course, when the journey reaches that homestretch, the police car overheats and is unable to follow.

The incident that follows seems to have been something of a notable one in that region of Africa, but it’s noteworthy that director Katja Benrath and primary screenwriter Julia Drache do not exactly play it up as revolutionary or necessary even unusual. Jua’s rosary beads have been exchanged for a head covering almost before the audience realizes what has happened, and teacher Salah Farah (Abdiwali Farrah) pushes back against their attackers without dramatic pauses between his words or a dramatic swell to the score. This pivotal, climactic scene is not necessarily more tense for how the filmmakers play it; it may actually let a bit of the air out. I’m curious as to whether this was a conscious choice on their part to position the actions of Salah and Jua’s neighbor as not primarily heroic but what should be expected of people whether they consider themselves brave or not. It’s an intriguing realignment of the aspirational true story that emphasizes not just that ordinary people can and should resist violence, but that they must.

It’s a message that gets across in large part because of how Benrath has her cast play the scenes leading up to it; both Adelyne Wairimu’s Jua and Abdiwali Farrah’s Salah often come off as abrasive and prone to suspicion of others’ motives, and the actors convey that well; they’re also given material that lets them show the characters as having more to them before being thrown in the crucible. The locations shooting is beautiful as well, and never fails to capture the right combination of vibrance and danger.

If I were a betting man, I’d put it on “My Nephew Emmett”, and I’d have a hard time arguing against it as the most award-worthy of the bunch. The whole package is well worth checking out, of course, whether before or after the awards.

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