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Filmmaker showcases rare talents


If the name Curtis Kariuki sounds familiar, it’s likely from his “I Love Worcester” drone video that took the city by storm in January, accumulating views in the hundreds of thousands within days of release. Then again, if you’re familiar with the local music scene, you may have seen one of the multiple music videos he shot and directed – one of which earned a 2016 Worcester Music Award for Best Music Video. Now, the recent Doherty High School grad is taking his craft to the next level through a crowdfunded documentary film titled The Rare.

What was first envisioned as a 20-minute video showcasing the artistic talent thriving in the city of Worcester quickly expanded in scope as public support poured into the campaign launched to fund the film. The Kickstarter began March 31, with the goal of raising $5,000 to cover equipment costs, but exceeded $13,000 by May. Determined to deliver a product to match supporters’ enthusiasm, Kariuki set his sights on a feature-length documentary about 20 artists following their dreams in the heart of the commonwealth.

Kariuki began his filmmaking career at the age of 11, when he was sponsored to shoot video featuring skateboarding and sunglasses. After an injury, he found he couldn’t keep up with his former skill level and began shooting video of friends instead, earning him the nickname, “That Video Kid.” His newfound title and recognition led him to South Africa on behalf of his church with his first professional camera in hand.

Fast-forward to this past spring, and Kariuki has sparked a massive response to his drone video celebrating select sights in the city – so much so that he received a personal thank you from Mayor Joe Petty. Kariuki, however, took the outpouring of positive feedback with a side of frustration. Many of the online comments on the video complimented his creativity and, in the same breath, faulted Worcester for not having enough artistic individuals. Knowing that this was not the case, Kariuki found his inspiration for a project that would expose the bed of unique talent he saw blossoming in his city.

Kariuki is not alone with this perspective of Worcester. The Rare Project borrows its name from Rare Mxbb, a brand “devoted to supporting creativity,” founded by Worcester local Jamel Walker. Growing up in the Pleasant Street area, Walker saw a mass of underdog talent emerging from his neighborhood, which serves as the inspiration for his efforts. “Rare” stands for “Real Art Real Energy,” and “Mxbb” signifies the ideals of a union. Walker applies his symbolic design to a variety of clothing and apparel. With the common interest of showcasing local creativity, Walker and Kariuki formed a natural partnership to take on The Rare Project.

The film will feature 20 locals, from actors and musicians to graphic designers and painters. Their goals as young artists in Worcester will be documented from conception to fruition: “The Rare … Together they must ascend to success or be left where they started … the underground.”

The film is as much an artists’ collaboration as it is a documentary about artists. Kariuki says he’s creating a platform, and the subjects of the film are invited to help build the final product, with the hope of ultimately building exposure for their respective crafts.

One of the major characters of the film is Sharina Travieso, of Worcester. Kariuki describes the self-taught artist as an individual committed to her craft, constantly working to collaborate with the community and get her work exposed to the public. She’s also made major contributions to the project as a whole. Travieso was named one of Pulse Magazine’s 16 to Watch in 2016: “Travieso’s work has been on exhibit at art galleries across New York City and is now coming back to her hometown of Worcester in 2016 at Nine Dot Gallery. In addition to this, Travieso plans to paint a mural at a location to be determined in downtown Worcester. She also aspires to dive into other artistic mediums and collaborate with photographers and clothing designers.”

Originally set to premier in August, the film’s expansion of scope has pushed the production back to the end of the year, Kariuki said. He then hopes to retreat from the city for the editing process to avoid influence from the subjects of the film. Currently, Kariuki is establishing connections with media producers, including MTV and VICE, which he hopes will support efforts to bring the feature-length documentary to the public.

Kariuki envisions the film’s ending with a shift in focus. The camera will turn away from the subjects and onto the filmmaker, documenting his own journey of accomplishing a goal – that of creating the film and the process of getting it picked up.

“It’s like Inception: a goal within a goal,” Kariuki said.

Though the project has raised funds well over the original goal, the expansion of the end product has the filmmakers searching for continued support. While the equipment costs have been covered, the process of submitting the film to potential producers alone will be a major financial obstacle.

The Rare Artists:
Curtis Kariuki – Cinematographer – @Thatvideokid
Jamel Walker – Clothing Designer – @Raremxbb
Gabriel Aisagbonhi – Artist/Creative Director/Photographer – @GabeNight
Missael Alvarado – Artist – @Uncoolstuff
Alan Alvarado – Photographer/Artist – @AlanGramps
Reggie Barnes – R&B Singer/Actor – @Reggie_Barnes
Rosa Batista – Model/Singer – @RosaBatista518
Windy Bazile – Model – @WidnyBazile
Willz AU – Producer/Artist – @Shelovecvrvts
Curwyn Henry – Cinematographer – @CurwynHenry
Vanessa Herbold – Art Director/Graphic Designer – @VanessaHerb
Elijah Jacobs – Rap Artist/Singer/Producer – @Picturemylifee
Canon Lawless – Creative Director/Music Engineer – @Canonlawless
YNGA Lawless – Rap Artist – @YNGAlawless
Dalena Nguyen Le – Photographer – @Dalenatn
Monique Reyes-Navarro – Model – @_Monique14_
Ade Salami – Creative Director/Graphic Designer/Clothing Designer – @rflwrs
Mark Simmons – Artist – @Kidairmarky
Sharinna Travieso – Artist/Make-up Artist/Art Director – @Rinnaxo
Matt Weeks – Creative Director/Clothing Designer – @yvngggucci

The Rare Project is expected to finish production early next year. Updates and sneak peeks can be found at, and

By Mitchell Perry

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