By LILYS NJERU
Raymond Karago and his family moved to the United Kingdom when he was only 13. Ten years later, and now established as a filmmaker and actor, he still draws inspiration for his films from his motherland, Kenya.
One of his short films, Stand Up, which was screened at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and accepted at the LA Shorts and Burbank Film Festival, tells the story of a young man who was raised in a traditional family and desired to be a comedian.
To do this, he had to stand up to his family — a scenario that is all too common with many Kenyan youth. Another of his films, Naira, brings to light the fight against Al-Shaabab while highlighting the struggles that come with it as one girl is being forced to join the militants at the Kenya-Somalia border.
Gangsters, a web series which was screened at the Indie Film Night recently, won an award at the LA Edge Awards and is now available on YouTube.
The series has been accepted into the LA International Film, winning him a bronze award.
At 23, Raymond is making progress in Hollywood with plenty of zeal, as if in a rush to reclaim the years lost in solitude.
“I grew up as a very reserved child. In school, I was on the receiving end of mockery from both students and teachers who thought that I was stupid because I struggled with academics. While kids my age found joy in crowds, I thrived best playing with my toys, watching movies or writing stories alone. In King’s Bruton School, I discovered my love for acting and during summer break, I would spend most of my time taking music and acting classes,” he recalls.
According to him, the success of every project is proof that he could amount to something.
“When I was 16, I was molested and to this end, I still find it hard to fit in. Writing, acting or producing films saves me from suicidal thoughts. I also have a very supportive family and I am currently seeing a therapist. Also, I speak openly about suicide and depression to help someone who might be going through the same thing,” he says.
He cites the importance of reaching out and speaking about what is holding you back.
It is this determination to succeed that makes him stand out among his age mates.
At the age of 19, with nothing but a few dollars collected from friends and family, he made his debut in Hollywood.
“It was tough. I didn’t have a godfather or anyone guiding me. My family had just moved to Los Angeles and I had to make a way for myself. This came with so much pressure that I sunk into depression. However, I am really proud of the strides I have made,” he says.
As his written and produced films continue to get accolades in Hollywood, his acting career shines on.
He is part of Illville, a TV show portraying the effects of gang violence in LA on an African American family, and he was also part of the feature film Low Key Savage.
He also plays Marcus Cole in the web series, Gangsters, and is part of other upcoming projects such as Apathy Equals Death, a feature film set in LA.
Outside acting, the 23-year-old enjoys nature walks and taking care of his two cats; Baloo and Bagheera.
He aspires to get on network television, open a performing arts centre in Nairobi and inspire millions of youth with the message that with determination, excellence is attainable.
First Published by the Daily Nation