Kibuki: Spirits in Zanzibar

San Francisco, California | Film Short

Documentary, Experimental

Lizzy Brooks

1 Campaigns | California, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $5,550 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

81 supporters | followers

Enter the amount you would like to pledge


An experiment in trance, cultural exchange, and the meaning of healing.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

The Story

The Kibuki film began as an experiment. I was on a language study in Zanzibar, when I met Asha, a spirit healer and the leader of a ring of dancers who use trance and hypnosis to let go of their bodies, to move with inhuman rhythms. The kibuki spirits are a pantheon of mystical creatures who enter these dancers, climb into their heads, and possess them.

I was so fascinated with the kibuki that I began hanging around Asha’s compound during the slow hours between ritual dances. On a tropical afternoon, while a lazy fan barely swayed the mosquito netting in the children’s bedroom where I was napping, Asha offered to do a treatment on me. She brought her colleagues and her assistants into the room, and they gathered around me in a circle. They began chanting and clapping and someone lit an incense with strangest scent I’ve ever smelled. Asha took hold of the top of my head and moved my body in a circle. I choked and gasped and I started to tremble. The blood rushed to my head and I screamed. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground. Someone splashed water on me. I was still shaking and I had the warmest feeling, like some dream syrup drug had pumped through all my veins.

Asha told me that I was possessed with a spirit, and that I should return to Zanzibar for a full Kibuki treatment. Once I was trained in the trance, I could join the other dancers in the ring.

I spent fifteen months in Zanzibar, from December of 2010 to March of 2012. I worked with a local crew to film my own kibuki treatment, and the process of learning a different culture, the sense of disorientation that comes when you move from one way of thinking to another. I was always an outsider in Zanzibar. Some beliefs and practices remain opaque.

Kibuki has been three years in the making and the process has changed me, both as a person and an artist. I believe in the medical properties of the possession trance, even as I struggle to reconcile magical thinking with my pragmatic Western education. I am humbled to remember my naiveté in thinking that as a white American woman, I could just wander into another culture and make friends. I made deep friendships during my time in Zanzibar, but only after I understood that we are all tethered to the cruel mechanics of the global economy. These personal transformations are built into the film, and only by finishing the piece can I share my own learning with my friends, colleagues, and peers here in the US.


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.


Costs $1,125

To keep our supporters engaged with news,stories, and conversations about Kibuki.

Sound Editor

Costs $1,125

To even, smooth, level ,and correct the multiple sound sources.

Sound Designer

Costs $1,125

After leveling & fine tuning we want to polish the sound and create a soundscape to match the film.


Costs $2,125

Creating a cohesive look and feel to capture the vibrate colors of Zanzibar.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team

Elizabeth Brooks is the director of Kibuki. She is a mixed media artist, and a member of the San Francisco experimental cinema community. Her work explores the boundary between fact and fiction, using film, video, writing, and sound to blur the line between memory and imagination.

She holds an MA in African Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and an MFA in Photographic and Electronic Media from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She was a 2010 recipient of a Fulbright grant to Tanzania. She currently works as the Youth Curriculum Manager at the San Francisco Film Society, and her bilingual children’s book, Mama Has a Job, was recently selected for publication by Mkuki na Nyota publishers in Tanzania.

Lutfiya Hassan Suleiman is the assistant director, crew manager, and story consultant for the Kibuki film. She was born in Zanzibar and studied in Mombasa, Kenya. She is a community advocate and organizer for increased opportunities for women in the Michenzani district of Stonetown, Zanzibar. She has advocated for improved access to health care for women, and she opens her home to provide counseling and support for women suffering from domestic abuse. In addition to her community work, Lutfiya owns and operates a women’s clothing shop, the Moon Glow Boutique, and she cares for her five-year-old
daughter, Sarah.

Asha Osman Kilimani is the owner and lead healer of the Kilimani Kibuki ring, and worked with the Kibuki film to arrange access to rituals, and to organize interviews with recognized experts. Asha also appears in the film, and served as a story consultant for the rough edit.

Asha was born in Zanzibar and married at age 16. She was ill intermittently, suffering from depression and infertility, until she was diagnosed as possessed by a Kibuki spirit. Her spirits demanded that she undergo treatment many times until she herself became an experienced healer. In the year 2000, she and her husband began to treat patients and to hold Kibuki healing rituals in their home. The business has prospered and Kilimani is now recognized as one of the five primary Kibuki rings. Recently Kilimani expanded its operations to sell juice and to organize sound equipment for off-site ceremonies.

Heidi Petty is the producer for Kibuki: spirits in Zanzibar. Heidi specializes in documentaries that push the boundaries of sound in film. She developed her directing and producing style in the musical underground, with tight shots and organic camerawork that bring the viewer into the world of the artist. Heidi grew up in Nikiski, Alaska, and moved to San Francisco to work at the junction of film and technology. Since joining 12fps, she has produced video content for clients and projects as diverse as Google Play, Wine Forest, and the fashion designer First Rite.

Winston Merchan is a filmmaker from Southern California, and the editor for Kibuki.  His forte is Editing, Motion Graphics, and all that involves Post-Production. Gaining most of his inspiration from both the streets and outer space, his current focus is documentary. He has gained experience from working at several Post-Facilities throughout Los Angeles and San Francisco. You can either spot him skateboarding an empty swimming pool or comparing office chairs at Staples.


Current Team