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Kenya's politicians battle like 'Transformers' in 3D animation

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
March 4, 2013 -- Updated 1203 GMT (2003 HKT)
"Wageuzi," which means "transformers" but also "changemakers" in Swahili, is a 3D animated short film portraying Kenya's political candidates fighting it out for the country's presidency. "Wageuzi," which means "transformers" but also "changemakers" in Swahili, is a 3D animated short film portraying Kenya's political candidates fighting it out for the country's presidency.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A 3D animated film depicts Kenya's politicians as Transformer-style robots
  • The short film, "Wageuzi, is the work of Kenyan animator Andrew Kaggia
  • Kaggia says the film aims to make Kenyans vote wisely
  • Kenya holds key elections on March 4

(CNN) -- They arrive in souped-up sports cars, boasting a potent arsenal of sci-fi weaponry and shape-shifting powers, lining up side by side for the ultimate race to the finish line. In the end, there can only be one winner.

Welcome to the battle for Kenya's presidency -- as imagined by a talented young Kenyan animator.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, "Wageuzi" is a short 3D animated film showing Kenya's main political leaders fighting for supremacy ahead of the country's critical elections on March 4.

The futuristic film sets Kenya's presidential hopefuls against each other in a thrilling, high-octane battle inspired by the Transformers blockbuster franchise.

Over the course of some 12 minutes, viewers are treated to a range of industrial cityscapes and gloomy-looking backdrops. Five presidential hopefuls roar through the urban settings as they switch between forms in their bid to outfox each other. Machine guns blazing, they turn from speeding vehicles into mighty robots, before engaging in aerial combat as they try to finish the race first.

Andrew Kaggia, animator.
Andrew Kaggia, animator.

"Wageuzi is Swahili, it means 'transformers,'" explains creator Andrew Kaggia, 25. "It can also mean 'the changemakers,' because our leaders are the tools for change."

iReport: Kenyan Graffiti for Peace

Kaggia, a Nairobi-based 3D animator working on commercials and TV shows, decided to make the film in the hope that it would inspire people in his country to cast their ballots responsibly. Kenya was engulfed in chaos after its last election in 2007, when post-election violence left more than 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

"When we had an election in 2007 there really was a lot of violence," says Kaggia. "A lot of bad things happened and basically we needed to see our leaders in their true light. So I thought of doing something sort of controversial using our leaders and creating them in the form of 'Transformers,' seeing how they basically fight for power at whatever cost.

"I wanted people to basically think twice before choosing their leaders," he adds. "To see their leaders as who they are and to vote more wisely."

Throughout the fast-paced film Kaggia has included satirical references to what he sees as the candidates' real-life personalities.

"When people they watch the film, they're able to relate the characters to the actual politicians," adds Kaggia, who first released Wageuzi in December 2011 (Kenya's elections were initially scheduled to take place in 2012). "I think people who watch it are able to actually read between the lines and say 'OK, this is actually how it is.'"

Kaggia says it took him about six months to complete the whole film, working up to 14-15 hours a day. He had to quit his regular job to focus on all aspects of Wageuzi -- from 3D modeling and animation to compositing and lighting.

And when Wageuzi did finally come out, it created a splash. "The first day I released the film [online] I think it got 1,000 views," says Kaggia. "People were really spreading it around."

I wanted people to basically think twice before choosing their leaders.
Andrew Kaggia, "Wageuzi" creator

Read this: Can mobiles help stop Kenya election violence?

Kaggia first discovered the art of animation through the Disney cartoons he was watching while growing up, and his style was inspired by the classic beat em' up video game "Tekken."

"It blew my mind the first time I saw it," he says of the game. "I started playing around with it and that's how it began."

Today, Wageuzi's success has helped put the spotlight on Kenya's burgeoning animation scene. It's also acted as an example of what can be achieved when talent meets hard work; Kaggia was born with a deformed hand, but that never got in the way of his dreams.

"I refused to let it stop me," says Kaggia. "I decided not to let that be the case I can do this and I won't let anything stop me."

Read this: Kenyan boy scares off lions with flashy invention

With Kenya's critical election fast-approaching, Kaggia says he is hopeful that the violence that rocked his country last time around will not be repeated.

"I think people have learned since 2007," he says. "People are smarter now because they saw that they were actually used by their leaders ... so I don't think there will be such violence."

Watch 'Wageuzi'

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