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Why Kenyan-Somali film “BUFIS” on visa scams is stirring controversy

In the bustling streets of Eastleigh, dreams of a better life in the United States ignite the hearts of Somali refugees.

Their path to freedom, however, involves a scam like no other, and the question arises: Is the pursuit of liberty worth the greatest con of all time? This intriguing storyline is at the heart of the Kenyan-Somali film “BUFIS.”

A scene from the Kenyan-Somali film “BUFIS” movie shot in Eastleigh. PHOTO| COURTESY

“BUFIS” delves into controversial territory, exploring allegations of visa scams that have heightened sensitivities surrounding immigration issues.

The narrative, inspired by true events, unravels a visa scam orchestrated by a mysterious Somali broker in Eastleigh.

With cunning precision, this broker ingeniously orchestrates the journey of countless Somalis to the USA, all through fabricated family connections.

As the US Embassy opens its green card lottery visa program, the fictional broker, Assad, weaves compelling stories of families fleeing conflict.

Also read: Hundreds of Green Card Kenya winners blocked from US

When one of these tales gains acceptance, Kamal, a repatriated Somali-American, becomes instrumental in identifying suitable candidates for embassy interviews.

But the clandestine operation, responsible for many pseudo-families gaining access to the USA, now teeters on the brink of exposure.

“BUFIS” takes on the structure of a classic heist movie. Still, instead of robbing a bank, this unique family is attempting to scam the US Embassy, leading to hilariously unexpected consequences.

A scene from the Kenyan-Somali film “BUFIS” movie. PHOTO| COURTESY

The film’s directors are keenly aware of the potential for controversy within the Somali-Kenyan community.

However, they firmly believe that storytelling is a powerful tool for challenging established norms and fostering courageous conversations. In their own words, they draw inspiration from Martin Luther King’s audacious stance that “we have the moral right to resist unjust laws.”

With this conviction, they grappled with the daunting task of confronting an entire immigration policy.

Their response takes shape in “BUFIS,” where humor becomes a daring spotlight, illuminating the inherent contradictions of our world and deliberately inviting intense scrutiny and courageous conversations.

Also read: Kenyan woman fined Sh123m over online romance scam in the US

“BUFIS” is set to make its premiere in Kenyan cinemas on October 26, offering audiences the chance to engage with this thought-provoking and entertaining cinematic journey.

But that’s not all; this groundbreaking film is set to debut at the esteemed Warsaw International Film Festival (WIFF) on October 6.

This momentous occasion marks a significant milestone, as “BUFIS” becomes the first Kenyan-Somali feature film to participate in this prestigious event, underscoring the audacity of African cinema on the global stage.

WIFF, one of only 12 FIAPF-accredited film festivals, stands proudly alongside renowned festivals like Cannes, Berlinale, Venice, Toronto, and Sundance.

“BUFIS,” co-directed by the veteran Vincenzo Cavallo and the emerging Somali-Kenyan talent Mahad Ahmed, brings together the creative minds behind previous award-winning works like “WAZI? FM” (Golden Dhow, Zanzibar Film Festival, 2015) and “Almost Somali” (Best Continental Documentary, Cape Verde, 2023). The film is produced by Cultural Video Production, widely recognized as The Nrb Bus.

Also read: Alfred Mutua says Kenyans will soon travel and work in Canada, warns of scams