Wavumba, they who smell of fish - Jeroen van Velzen

59 minutes (television version) & 80 minutes (theatre version)

An old fisherman in Kenya still wants to catch a shark.

In search of the reality behind the memories the filmmaker has of his youth in Kenya, he once again allows himself to be led by an old fisherman to a world where fantasy, dreams, belief and reality cannot be differentiated from one another.

When I lived in Kenya as a child I was very susceptible to the stories about sharks and sea spirits told to me by an old fisherman. As I got older, my belief in supernatural powers disappeared, but a part of me still longed for that open, unprejudiced way in which I looked at life and for the magic that filled everything with colour.

That is why I wanted to return to the country where I grew up. On the coral island Wasini I met Masoud, and his steady helper Juma. Masoud is an old fisherman who still hopes of catching a large shark, like he died when he was young. How long Masoud also remains without a catch, every day he sincerely believes that tomorrow it will happen.

Masoud says that he feels stronger than ever, but his age has begun to make him vulnerable. What’s more, the rainy season is at hand making it impossible to go out to the deep sea for months. Will this be the last year that Masoud has the chance to catch a large shark? We follow him and Juma on their journeys. Through all this, stories of the past are interwoven. Old people tell about lost magical worlds of sea spirits, dangers and mythical old fishermen.

On our last day together Masoud shows me the sacred island Mpunguti, the place where his ancestors are buried. There I realise that the magic of this world rests in the simplicity of it. Wherein Masoud, like generations before him, hunts the impossible in perfect serenity and with confidence in his own abilities.


direction: Jeroen van Velzen
script: Jeroen van Velzen in cooperation with Sara Kee
camera: Lennart Verstegen
sound: Robil Rahantoeknam
editing: Stefan Kamp
sound design: Boon & Booy
image post-production: Loods Lux & Lumen
production manager Kenya: Sara Kee
producer: Digna Sinke

this film is a co-production of SNG Film with the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation

this film is financially supported by:
Netherlands Film Fund
Dutch Cultural Media Fund

Tribeca Film Festival, New York 2012: Best New Documentary Director Award
Festival International du Film Insulaire, île de Groix 2013: Coup de coeur
International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana, Perm 2013: Silver Nanook Award for “Original Artistic Solution”
Sichuan TV Festival 2014: Golden Panda Awards for Documentary: Certificate for Best Photography