Kenya hardly has a more famous sporting family than the Wanyamas, so it’s no surprise that they are the subject of a brand new sports documentary made by two Danish filmmakers, Emil Morell and Andreas Jull Johansen entitled More than Brothers.
What is surprising is that the film doesn’t focus primarily on the family patriarch Noah, who’s a living legend having played brilliant football for AFC Leopards years ago.
Nor does it highlight the remarkable feats of his two oldest sons, Victor and Mariga who at ages 22 and 26 respectively have achieved remarkable world-class success having reached the pinnacle of football performance: Victor a defensive midfielder (and occasionally a centre back) for the English Premier League club, Southampton FC and Mariga, also a defensive midfielder but for Inter Milan FC, currently on loan to the Series A club Parma.
Instead, the two filmmakers who coincidentally study Anthropology and African Studies at Danish universities chose to focus on the life of the younger Wanyama, Noah’s last born son Harry who at 18 has grown up in the shadows of his luminous older brothers and who also dreams of one day becoming a football hero like most of his male family members.
What makes the film especially salient for Kenyan audiences is the fact that Morell and Johansen tell Harry’s story within an historical context, looking at where the Wanyamas came from as well as where they have arrived. Their concern is more anthropological than athletic.
In a sense More than Brothers is a classic ‘rags to riches’ story in which sports have accelerated the family’s rise out of poverty into tremendous wealth and massive worldwide sporting success.
But the fact that it was just four years ago that the family moved from Muthurwa in Eastlands to Lavington in Westlands means that major adjustments have had to be made. And the media rarely reveals the psychological and emotional toll that such a move can make on family members like Harry.
But More than Brothers examines the emotional, social and psychological challenges that young Harry struggles to meet.
“Driving around Nairobi in one of the family’s big cars, Harry is often mistaken for Mariga, especially as he looks a lot like him,” says Morell who empathises with the young scion who’s reminded on a daily basis of the family’s sporting pedigree.
“Harry would like to be a star footballer like his older brothers (and his dad), but his dream may not be easy for him to realise,” said Johansen who spoke last Tuesday night at the film’s premier screening in the Wangari Maathai Auditorium of the Alliance Francaise in Nairobi.
What attracted the filmmakers to Harry’s story was the complexity of this young Kenyan’s multiple challenges.
His is a ‘coming of age’ tale since Harry’s still a teenager stressed to make life changing decisions. But he’s also something of a child of two worlds, having grown up poor and riding a second-hand bicycle around Eastlands estates but now he drives the family’s BMWs and SUVs around the leafy green suburbs of Westlands.
Morell and Johansen plan to screen More than Brothers at film festivals elsewhere in Africa, Europe, Asia and America, although they have a special interest in seeing it screened during next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
“The football economy has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Back then, a footballer couldn’t survive doing only sports. Today the scene has changed dramatically, but there are few films that have addressed the implications of this phenomenal shift,” Morell said.
The two Danes financed More than Brothers by themselves. “We’ve never had much success obtaining donor funding for our films,” said Morell who with Johansen has made several films elsewhere in East Africa and Asia. “We spent just less than $10,000 making this film, but we hope that its success will lead to our attracting sponsors our future films.”