“Watu Wote” is Swahili for “everyone” or “all of us.”
This is a 22 minute film set in Kenya.
A woman is set to travel by bus to the northern part of the country to be with her sick mother. This is not a trip she wants to make. She will be in the part of Kenya closest to the Somalia border, which has had an alarming amount of violence and terrorism.
She is a Christian, but she will be traveling in a predominantly Muslim area. Religious conflict, mutual distrust, and fear are rampant. The terrorist groups operating in the north are Muslim groups. She is especially sensitive to these issues because she has lost family members to Muslim violence.
A man—seemingly a perfectly respectable man—seeks to strike up a conversation with her before they board the bus. But he is a Muslim so she wants nothing to do with him. She turns him away curtly.
On the journey northward, her worst nightmares come true when the bus is ambushed by terrorists. The gun-wielding fanatics board the bus and demand that everyone get off, separating into Muslims and Christians. There are few if any Christians on the bus other than the protagonist. One can only assume their intent is to kill (or to rape or to kidnap into slavery or something terrible) any non-Muslim.
Her only hope now is that this bus full of strangers that she has distrusted and shunned will risk their own lives in facilitating her passing for a fellow Muslim.
Watu Wote is a psychologically and morally intense thriller. What makes it even harder hitting is that it is based on an actual incident. I was into this the whole way, especially when the terrorists attacked the bus. It’s very well done, and gives you a lot to think about in terms of how people respond to trauma and danger. Strong recommendation.