Kayayo – The Living Shopping Baskets

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Mari Bakke Riise

What motivated you to make this film?

I have a friend who worked in an NGO to help the kayayo girls in Ghana before I met her. She told me about this and the situation of the girls and because of that I decided to make a film about the girls.


Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

There were a lot of obstacles in the filming process of this film. Being in Ghana and filming this was not an easy one. At some point I thought we would not be able to finish this film because there were so many who didn’t want this film to be made and tried everything to make us stop doing it.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

I want them to love the main character as much as I be aware of the still ongoing child labour around the world.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

– How heavy the trays the girls carry are. (from 130 to 220 pounds)
– That I didn’t pay the girl or any of the participants in the documentary to join (I have been asked about that) that is very important to me that they are not “buyed” but are joining because they want to. We made sure that the people who were joining did not expect anything. that we only compensated them for lost work time and gave them food. We told them the purpose of the film and that we wanted to tell the story of the girls through this one girl’s story.
– That Bamunu – the main character in the film now goes to school and doesn’t work on the markets. She was sent back to the markets when we were there, but I made an agreement with her family that if I left money for her schooling they would let her come back and go to school. And I have created a fund for her so I will continue to send money to her so she will get an education . (I am following up through translators I know/who has worked with me who make sure the money are received and that Bamunu get to go to school)
– That there are ways to help the kayayo girls and Bamunu. either to Bamunus fund or donate to a couple of organizations which are having good programs to help the girls. visit our Facebook page for more information about that. our Facebook page: @thelivingshoppingbaskets


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

This film will be shown to the government of Ghana (through my contacts on the Norwegian embassy in Ghana who really support this project and film) and I am glad that the film will reach as far into the core of the country as possible. but whether that will change anything for the girls or not is hard to say. What we can do is to support the NGOs who work with programs to change the situation for the girls and women in this country. to empower them and educate them. and this awareness about the importance of education, is also getting incorporated to the society.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Many people have asked how to help the kayayo girls. That is very happily appreciated and here are two options:
You can either donate money to Bamunu`s education, or you can donate money to two NGOs in Ghana, which has a good program to educate the kayayo girls.

Alternative 1:
We have created an account for Bamunu. This will make it possible for her to stay in the village with her family, and go to school. We want to support her all the way through higher education.
For donation the account number is: 18226580006 (for norwegians)
For outside Norway: BIC SHEDNO22, IBAN: NO3118226580006, adress: Sparebanken Hedmark, Brugata 2b, 2500 Tynset, Norway.

Alternative 2:
One of the NGOs is called Calid Ghana and the website is: calidghana.org.
You can easily donate there (mark the donation “kayayo”).
Or donate money directly to their account number: 0100170760700.
name: Calid Ghana address: P.O. Box ER 409
Tamale, Northern-Region, Ghana, West Africa
Bank Name: Standard Chartered Bank
Accounts Name: Centre for Active Learning and Integrated Development
Branch: Tamale Branch, Ghana
The NGO`s program is to give the kayayo girls mothers loans aimed to start their own little businesses. In that way the mothers are able to provide for their family. The program also gives the mothers basic schooling, and the criteria for them to get the loans, is for the kayayo girls to attend school too.
The program is very successful, and many girls have been saved from children’s labor. So far his program has helped 45 women in the villages, who has up to six children each. In this way awareness about the importance of education, is getting incorporated to the society and will also help generations to come..

Alternative 3:
The other NGO is called Prime Care Network.
Their home page: http://www.pcnvoluntourism.org

Prime Care network has worked for years to educate homeless and street children in Ghana. They provide for a place and stay, school, food and medical assistance.
They now have started a project for the kayayo girls so the girls can get an education.
Prime Care says they will seek the kayayo girls from the markets in Ghana and give them the opportunity to get education at the centers that Prime Care Network already has with the other projects with school assistance to street children. They are concerned with giving the girls right education and follow up so they get higher education and practical training so they can learn a trade and also start their own business. Prime Care also focus on the slightly older girls – those escaping from forced marriages.

You can donate through their homepage (mark it “kayayo”) eller directly transfer to the bank:
name: Prime care network
address: p.o box 408, Accra, Ghana
project: Support Kayayo Girls into School
name on bank: Fidelity Bank
Beneficiary: Prime Care Network kontonummer: 2090070948128
Swift code: FBLIGHAC


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):

Visit our Facebook page: @thelivingshoppingbaskets  and “we are moving stories” will write an article about us.


Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

The films: on a tight rope, breaking the waves and beasts of the southern wild


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

We used camera: Sony FS7


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

I planned and wanted this film to be a feature film, but we had to shorten it down to be able to finish it because there was so much resistance about making it/filming it. there were all different obstacles – the government didn’t want us to film in the slum where they had military patrols because they were slamming down slum houses with excavators to get rid of the problem with the poor people… or at the markets we were hit and chased away because people didn’t want us to film the girls and show the downside of their society.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story.

With my documentaries my hope is to shed light on the specific topic at hand through the personal journey of the main subject. My method is to create a trusting environment in which the subject feels respected and taken care of during the entire process. I believe such an approach encourages them to let me into their world and open up about their most inner thoughts and feelings as their authentic selves and in their personal processes. What’s most important to me is that the viewer loves the subject as much as I do and can identify with them as we join them in their journey. If I as a director can accomplish this, I believe that the message I wish to convey to the viewer will be that much more impactful.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

The first idea was to follow three girls and to see their personal growth and process and hear their stories through the new life they would get from the NGO. Then the NGO was shut down and I had to find another way to follow a girl with a personal process and drive through the film.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film. 

Getting to know so many beautiful and brave girls. I really learned so much of their personal courage, strength and ability to stay positive in such a hard situation and life.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Know that even though obstacles get in your way and things don’t turn out the way you thought they would, keep on going, stay congruent with your message and the passion you had about creating a film that would spread this message and allow the film to take the path which will make it the best.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

Coming up with the idea. picturing how the film will be before I have made it – how the look of the film will be and how the feeling of it will be. and connecting with the characters in the film and get to see the beauty in them.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

Paper and pen



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