By Ogova Ondego
Published March 18, 2011
Judy Kibinge, Zipporah Nyaruri, Wanjiru Kairu and Hawa Essuman represent Kenya at the 7th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Yenagoa, the capital of the oil-rich Bayelsa State, Nigeria, on March 26, 2011.
While Kibinge’s HEADLINES IN HISTORY has been nominated in the Best Long Documentary category and Nyaruri’s ZEBU AND THE PHOTO FISH competes for the Best Short Film, and the Best Child Actor (for Benjamin Abemegisha), Wanjiru Kairu’s WEAKNESS shall seek to prove that it is the Best Short Film made in Africa during the time under review. Essuman’s SOUL BOY, on the other hand, has the most nominations for Kenya–Best Director, Best Film, Achievement in Editing, Achievement in Screen Play, Best Film in African Language, Best Young Actor (for Samson Odhiambo and Leila Opou) though it fails short of equaling Kenya’s super achiever at AMAA 2009, Wanuri Kahiu’s FROM A WHISPER docu-fiction film that received nominations in 13 categories and went on to win five: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Original Soundtrack, and Achievement in Editing.
Can Kibinge, Nyaruri, Kairu and Essuman bring the glory home the way Kahiu ‘the first and only female to win the Best Director prize’ did in 2009?
Kibinge’s HEADLINES IN HISTORY is a 60-minute film written by Ugandan David Kaiza and co-directed by Ghanaian John Akomfrah. It tells the history of a newspaper that sprang out of an old bakery in 1959 and went on to become one of Africa’s biggest success stories: Nation Media Group (NMG).
The story of NMG is ideally the story of Kenya whose people were fighting for political independence from the British and the then fledgling Nation took on the nationalistic stance, identifying with the African cause.
HEADLINES IN HISTORY uses interviews, headlines, photographs, film footage and dramatic reconstruction to tell the story of the African newspaper people who risked everything during the pre- and post-independence era to deliver the daily news and build a thriving business. Kibinge was one of the six motivational speakers at the Lola Kenya screen critical writing and creative documentary workshops in Nairobi in November/December 2010.
ZEBU AND THE PHOTO FISH, that has already won three awards–Best Director, Best Script, Best Supporting Actor for Peace Among who plays the ‘Salon Lady’–at Auteur Experimental Short Film Festival in Cape Town, South Africa, recently competed in the Best Short Film category at the 22nd Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, FESPACO (February 26-March 5, 2011) in Burkina Faso. Though it did not win the award, the message was clear: that Nyaruri had arrived on the scene to claim her position among Africa’s audiovisual creative minds. Her credits include MAAMA EMERRE (2008), a documentary on food vendors in Uganda that has travelled widely on the international film festival circuit.
Holder of a Bachelor’s degree in business studies, Nyaruri works variously as an editor, writer and director. MAMA EMERRE,her debut documentary, was screened at Slow Food Film Festival in Italy and was thereafter commissioned for re-screening in schools and non-profit-making institutions in Italy in 2008 and 2009. BLACK BUTTERFLIES, ‘the making of’ of a feature film she edited, premieres in The Netherlands in late March 2011.
WEAKNESS by Wanjiru Kairu is a 13-minute narrative film dealing with parental responsibility, alcoholism, and sibling rivalry.
“My main goal is to create films that are compelling, original and successful in promoting dialogue on social issues,” says Kairu whose short films ‘MUST BE A GOD-FEARING GIRL, and WEAKNESS’ have screened at international festivals–Durban International Film Festival, ION Film Festival, New York African Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival and Images that Matter Film Festival. Saying that she is currently producing content for the Nigerian talk show, ‘Moments with Mo’, Kairu discloses that she is also working on her first full feature length project, THE TRANSCENDENCE, that she describes as “a first-time African superhero narrative.”
Kairu, an alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Campus 2006 and Maisha Film Lab 2007, has written, directed and produced several television hit shows and award-winning programmes. She has also facilitated documentary filmmaking workshops at the Nairobi-based Lola Kenya screen audiovisual media festival, skill-development mentorship and market for children and youth in eastern Africa in 2009. It is expected that this experience will work to her advantage in the AMAAs. But will it?
In all, Kenya submitted 27 films to AMAA 2011. They included Billy Mbikimo’s MATATU GIRL, ZEINABU RUDI NYUMBANI and R2 SECURITY; Oskar Korenius and EgregiousJitu’s HAUNTED; Hawa Essuman’s SELFISH;Peggy Mbiyu’s COMPUTER; Alex Konstantaras’s THE DEVIL DENTIST and CHASING MOSES; Egregious Jitu’s MOB DOC; Alex Kamangu’s NAIROBI BUTCHERMAN; F Simiyu Barasa’s A HISTORY OF FILM IN KENYA:1909-2009; Reuben Odanga’s SAIDA and SSHHH!; Asha Mwilu’s ORGANS; Gracie Kinya’s BECOMING A GIRL; Benjamin Odiwuor’s NOOSE OF GOLD; Guy Wilson’s WHY NOW?; and BWANANGU MURESHI by Evelyn Kahungu, Alexandros Konstantaras and Egregious Jitu of Jitu Films that submitted 10 of the 27 films from Kenya.
Other members of the Kenyan delegation are actors and AMAA 2009 Nominees Kenneth Sammy Muigai Ambani and Godfrey Odhiambo; film director Simiyu Barasa; and film journalists Mwenda wa Micheni/Christine Mungai and George Orido.
In 2009, Kenyan Wanuri Kahiu’s FROM A WHISPER docu-fiction film collected five of the 13 nominations out of the maximum 24 categories. She became the first and only female director in the history of AMAA to be crowned the Best Director. Her other awards were Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Original Soundtrack, and Achievement in Editing.
Also in the nomination race in 2009 were James Kanja’s PAMELA (Best Short Film), Judy Kibinge’s COMING OF AGE (Best Documentary) and Lola Kenya Screen productions: LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS by Adede Hawi, Samora Oundo and Karama Ogova (Best Animation), CHEPRONO by 2008 Film Production Workshop participants (Best Animation), MANANI OGRES by Samuel Musembi, Joseph Hongo and Norrick Joseph, and SANTOS THE SURVIVOR by Rupinder Jagdev.
In 2010, Kenya was represented by director Nathan Collet and producer Mercy Murugi’s TOGETHERNESS SUPREME and went on to win two AMAA statuettes: Best Performance by a Child Actor for Teddy Onyango and Bill Oloo, and Most Promising Actor for Wilson Maina.
AMAA, whose objectives are to promote African screen arts and unite the continent through the arts, is marketed as the biggest gathering of movie-makers across the African continent and the Diaspora.
The four films from Kenya, regardless of how they perform at the AMAAs on march 26, are lined up for screening at Goethe-Institut, Nairobi, on April 8, 2011 at 5.30 PM East African Standard Time (14.30 hrs GMT/UTC).The entry is free and the filmmakers encourage every film lover in Nairobi to turn up at the show.