By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Anah Ambuchi, a 12-year-old Hyde Park native, will receive an inaugural Rising Star Award for her short film called “Made in His Image” at the Diversity in Cannes Film Showcase in France.
The young Kenyan-American is an actress, dancer, producer, director, writer, and Bully Prevention Advocate. Ambuchi started her career at the age of five by studying ballet. At six, she started to act in theaters throughout the city such as the Harris Theatre Millennium Park. At eight, Ambuchi explored television and film while at Kids W.A.Y Acting Academy, where she trained under nationally acclaimed acting coach Jossie Harris Thacker, who would later become an executive producer and co-director for Ambuchi’s short film.
At the age of 11, Ambuchi made her directorial debut while working on “Made in His Image,” The short film is based on her experiences of being bullied for being African and dark-skinned in the fourth grade.
During the time she was bullied, Ambuchi was struggling to focus in school which resulted in her grades slipping from A’s to B’s. For a while, she did not tell her mom what was happening to her. When she finally revealed to her mother that she was being bullied, her mother was very supportive.
“[My mom] told me that I was African and awesome,” Ambuchi said. “She said that I was special, significant, beautiful and smart. She has this chart for me with all of these positive words and she makes me say ‘you are special, you are significant, you are smart, you are beautiful.’ Saying those words over again really helped me realize that I am all those things.”
After being bullied and opening up to her mom, Ambuchi decided that she wanted to tell her story.
When asked about her process to create the film, Ambuchi said, “I started writing my story in a journal from beginning to end. Mom was like ‘Oh wait, this is too long. Do you want to make it into a feature film?’ I was like ‘No, I want to make this into a short film.’ She said ‘well, you’re going to have to cut it a little bit.’”
From what she wrote in her journal, Ambuchi and her mother started working to put the film together. They auditioned actors, coordinated a film crew, and shot the film in two days in various locations in Chicago during a cold weekend in 2018.
Even though she had to work very long hours, Ambuchi enjoyed directing. Her advice to anyone interested in directing is “You have to be organized, you have to be disciplined and you have to have things planned ahead of time. If you plan it on the day that it is supposed to be happening it’s not going to turn out as well.”
Due to her hard work, she will receive her award, and her short film will be screened in Cannes. She was very shocked when she received the news and cannot wait to get to France.
“I would be interested in going to Calais or Paris. I want to try French macarons. Our macarons here have so much sugar, there they don’t use that much sugar. So, I want to try their version of macarons, “Ambuchi said.
For future projects, Ambuchi is looking forward to mastering comedy and challenging her acting skills by pursuing a drama.
Ambuchi and her mother have launched a fundraiser on gofundme to cover roundtrip airfare, hotel fees, and ground transportation. To support Ambuchi, you can donate to www.gofundme.com/chicago-to-cannes-help-make-a-dream-come-true where you can watch a trailer of her short film.