Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sabina's Encounter: An African Film on Barrenness

By Dan Henrich
Special to ASSIST News Service

LOS ANGELES, CA (ANS) -- An old adage, "The Church in Africa is an inch deep and a mile wide" was the impetus for the writing and production of Sabina's Encounter, a dramatic film designed to help the average African deal with the socio-cultural pressures created by a woman's barrenness. Sabina's Encounter was a co-production of International Media Ministries and what is now known as Communication Resources International.

DVD cover
Originally planned to be the first of a series of films written and produced for distribution on Cinema Leo, the mobile cinema outreach of the African Inland Church, Sabina's Encounter is the first of its kind - a film with a story based on real life cultural issues.

The producers goal was to help Christians to understand critical issues of their culture and how to relate to them in the Christian faith, provide information about the causes of barrenness and remove the superstition that is often associated with it and teach basic spiritual issues to new and old believers who are still young in Christian growth, that they may grow and reach out to others.

The story is about Sabina, a childless woman in her late 20's. Her husband has visited a witchdoctor who tells him Sabina is a witch and worthless, and to send her away. The husband beats Sabina severely and sends her away. She arrives at her sister's house very depressed, nearly suicidal and hating the world and God.
Because of Sabina's shameful failure to conceive, the husband goes to a witchdoctor to try to fix it. The witchdoctor tells him Sabina is eating the babies he puts in her stomach and to send her away....

During a talk with a retired headmaster, the concept is presented that the wife is not the only cause of a childless family - a key misconception in African society. Sabina is depressed and bitter, seeking the peace the sister, Maria, has, although she thinks the answer in Christ is too simplistic.

A baby is found thrown into the pit latrine, and it is through this traumatic experience that Sabina realizes that it is not babies, not clothes, not a husband that gives peace. It is during this time that her sister leads her to the Lord.

Sabina's Encounter has been distributed in many countries in sub-Sahara Africa in English and more recently, Swahili and African French. More than 10 countries have aired this program on national TV.
Sabina's husband has told her he is going to get a new wife - one that will give him babies and Sabina's is telling him he can't divorce her...

It is estimated from reports received from various mission sources that more than 20 million people had viewed the film by December 2004 with over 500,000 decisions. This was based on audience data from the main cinema van distributors in Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana, as well as data from the national TV stations as to their audiences.

Sabina's Encounter was a co-production with Communication Resources International and International Media Ministries (Assemblies of God. The above the line budget was raised by CRI and International Media Ministries, who provided the below the line personnel and equipment through the post production and film transfer.

A focus group was set up of African's from several countries in Africa to determine what were the critical cultural issues that Christians struggled with and out of 52 topics, barrenness was number one. A panel of 16 men and woman was established and a team of writers was set up - one from Kenya, one from Cameroon and an American.

The choice of characters, location and music was also very important to the overall planning of the program. In fact, all of the music was original and was very important in reinforcing the theme as well as providing strategic bridges throughout the story.

Further testing of the film was made after it was created and critiqued, both by local people who watched it as well as professionals who analyzed it for content, technique and acting. Reports have come in from many sources - letters, calls, remarks after the projection of the film, that confirms its impact. Many TV stations that have used it over and over again on national and regional television.

Maria, a Christian tries to explain how Sabina can have peace in Christ even without a baby!
Sabina's Encounter is an example of an "evergreen" film. It recently was a Silver Honoree at the Kindomwood Film Festival in Atlanta. It was a Official Selection of the Gold Lion Film Festival in Swaziland - festival director stated that... "the audience was attentive and respectful of the film -- the story's resolution was realistic and that it was hard to do a faith based film without being didactic." This is quite a statement from the director of a large secular film festival!

The film is available in Kswahili, African French and Kenyan English. It continues to be shown on African TV stations. Because it deals with a well-researched felt-need, the film is "evergreen" and is used by many denominations both in outreach and as part of counseling sessions.

Sabina's Encounter is just being re-released on three cinema van networks in Africa - Cinema Challenge in Ghana, Sinema Leo in Tanzania and Cinema Leo in Kenya representing a "new" audience of over 700,000!

Sabina's Encounter can be previewed at, it has a Facebook page, and a multi-language DVD can be purchased at

Dan Henrich is an educator and media consultant who has served in Africa and Asia conceiving and developing both film and web based communication programs. He currently lives in California and can be reached for consultation by clicking on the For More Information at 

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