by Natalie Owens '24
ALLIANCE - Meet Kabiona Ramadhani. Kabiona, or ‘Kabi,’ is in his third year at the University of Mount Union, studying in the theatre program. While he is majoring in theatre, Kabi’s passion is to create and produce films, which he discovered at an early age. Kabi has created multiple short films and was recently nominated for Best Actor and Best Director at the 2023 Akron Independent Horror Short Film Festival (AIHSFF). However, this is not the beginning of his story.
Kabi was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania and moved to Cleveland just before his ninth birthday. Living in Tanzania, he did not have access to a television in his home. He reflected on his life in Tanzania saying, “My mom would take me to the theatre that was local. We did not have a television so that is how we would find entertainment – in live shows or plays.” Kabi gives his mother the credit for sparking his interest in theatre at an early age. By taking him to the theatre, he found a love for the music, the acting, and the production of it all.
Shortly before Kabi turned nine years old, his family moved to the East side of Cleveland and began their life in the United States. Kabi got acclimated quickly to having a television and cell phones close by. “I would stay up late binging whatever was on the television, movies, TV shows. Sometimes I would be up all night just sucked in,” he said. “This semester I am taking a Visual Storytelling course with Dr. Adelina Cooper, and it is a lot of what I have already been doing with my film work but now I am, but now I am learning what the techniques are called and how to apply them effectively.”
While Kabi’s primary interest is in filmmaking, he is a theatre major on campus and is a well-loved student in the program. Kevin Kern, an associate professor of theatre at Mount Union, congratulated Kabi on his hard work. “Kabiona’s theatre professors are thrilled, but not surprised that his film is receiving such positive notices,” Kern said. “In his first year with us, we recognized Kabi’s strong work ethic, and his desire to perfect the craft of storytelling. His performance in our production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ was sensational, and a crowd favorite.”
Kabi received encouragement from the faculty to branch out into film even though he is a part of the theatre program. “The philosopher and author Reynolds Price reminds us that ‘...the need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species...’ That is why the work we do here in theatre, and with our colleagues in visual arts and media is so important,” Kern said. “We give students the training and opportunity to create and tell their stories, and Kabiona is a great example.”
Kabi’s newest film, titled “Happily Ever After” premiered at the AIHSFF on September 16. He stated the inspiration for the film came to him when he was spending time with his brother. He decided to make a short film with the plot of going against the stereotype of irresponsible decisions made by the main character in horror films.
“I decided to make my main character avoid danger. Instead of walking into a tough situation, he dips out of it,” Kabi said. This unique outlook on horror films could be one of the reasons he was nominated for Best Actor and Best Director at the festival.
“After a month-long submission and judging process, a panel of local artists selected 20 films from a group of diverse filmmakers who currently live or have lived in Ohio, spanning various ages, gender identities, ethnicities and countries of origin,” Neil Sudhakaran, an AIHSFF representative said in a press release highlighting the festival.
The films, ranging between 18 seconds to 15 minutes, were screened in the Akron Civic Theatre’s auditorium, as well as a continuous loop of five “micro-films” with a combined duration of 13 minutes at the Knight Stage.
Kabi was eager to have his work be included as part of the AIHSFF, saying, “It’s exciting to see something I worked hard on be shown to other people.” He hopes this is just his first entry to the festival, with the goal of participating again in the future.
Kabi is one of the many examples of determination and dedication at Mount Union. Moving to the US at an early age not only changed his life but also inspired him to begin filmmaking and join the theatre program on campus. “I have many goals for my life, but after graduation, I would like to pursue my filmmaking and photography. Those are the most important goals to me,” Kabi said.