A still from The Promised Land film
Dr. Gregor Reid, a world-renowned probiotics researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute, can now add the title of movie consultant to his resume. As part of his Fermented Food for Life (FFFL) project, Dr. Reid created a storyline which was made into a feature film titled The Promised Land by producer Charles Liburd. The film is set in Kenya and features the story of two young soccer players who are bullied by older kids. When their mother begins to produce probiotic yogurt their lives begin to improve.
The movie represents an innovative way to showcase the importance of the FFFL project. As a project of the International Development Research Centre, FFFL aims to empower the local production of probiotic yogurt to reach one million people in Eastern Africa. The project is working to create demand for the production of probiotic yogurt which is proven to help boost energy, increase immunity and prevent diarrhea.
“Through our partnership with Western Heads East and Yoba-For-Life, we are working to set up community kitchens where local women and youth produce probiotic yogurt called Fiti and Yoba,” says Dr. Reid, who is also Director for the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotic Research at Lawson, and Professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “The Fermented Food for Life project helps to enable this by promoting the importance and demand for the yogurt.”
The film, which cost a total of $45,000 to produce, is set in Kenya and features a realistic portrayal of African life and the challenges people face. The film was directed by Owino Sangiewa and produced by Charles Liburd of No Money No Cry Films. Dr. Reid, an avid soccer fan, drafted the film’s storyboard.
“As you walk the streets of Africa, you see many people wearing different versions of football [soccer] shirts. There is a very good player from Kenya named Wanyama who plays for the Spurs which shows that scouts find players in these countries,” says Dr. Reid. “I got the idea of two kids with a talent for the sport. The story shows the challenges of life in this region. The manner in which the mother starts to make a good living is a true reflection of what is happening in hundreds of communities now making probiotic yogurt.”
“I have been working with African filmmakers for some time and it was a joy to be able to work on The Promised Land to promote Yoba-Fiti in such an innovative way. Combining a health message with training and job creation was an ideal way for a small film company to contribute to the community,” says Charles Liburd, producer with No Money No Cry Films. “Film soaks up human capital, and Africa has an enormous youth unemployment problem. By making this film and inspiring young talent we were able to give employment and create opportunities for a number of people. Another offshoot of the Yoba-Fiti project was that we were able to help the young girl, Sheila, who acted in one of the main roles, get into school by obtaining sponsorship. For me, combining all of these things is filmmaking at its best and truest as an art form.”
The film is available in its entirety on YouTube. Dr. Reid also hosted a London, Ontario premiere at St. Joseph’s Hospital in July 2017. The Africa Institute and Western Heads East will be actively promoting the film as a part of their regular activities.
Dr. Reid (above) hosted a premiere for The Promised Land at St. Joseph’s Hospital in July 2017.