|Article by Ogova Ondego
Published March 15, 2008
A feature film to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the American embassy in Kenya on August 7, 1998, is set to premiere in Nairobi on August 8, 2008.
The US$250,000 short fiction film is written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu, one of Kenya’s young, promising, talented and professional filmmakers who says she writes and directs “films that challenge and inspire the human spirit to re-unite and remember. I believe that the union of people and the integration of cultures through stories are beneficial to all.”
Describing the film as a story of survival and redemption, Kahiu’s characters include a Muslim girl who lost her mother in 1998 and who has been on a long quest of looking for her through painting pictures that she then places in strategic places around the country. Also in the cast is a young terrorist and an equally young anti-terrorist police officer whose zeal is frustrated by his superiors who do not take him seriously. Had he been taken seriously, the director says, the US embassy bombing could have been prevented.
The film will also touch on the bombing of the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Mombasa and the attempted shooting down of an Israeli passenger plane at Moi International Airport, Mombasa.
Asked how she intends to handle such sensitive subjects like Islam and terrorism, Kahiu says her story shows how people survive traumatic events and that she does not accuse any one in her work. “I want to show that terror affects everyone,” she says of the story that has ‘Muslim’ characters in prominent roles.
The film, to be shot for 20 days in May 2008, will also provide some training ground for young people in areas such as directing, editing, make-up, art and photography. Interested people are asked to apply as only limited vacancies are available, Kahiu says.
Kahiu just returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, where she was part of a pan-African short film screen play-development initiative aimed at encouraging Africans themselves to engage with the challenges facing their continent through the medium of film, is also developing her short, futuristic science fiction film, Pumzi (Fresh Breathe).
The South African training was the initiative of Goethe-Institut in conjunction with the Art in Africa Foundation.
While in Johannesburg, Kahiu, who also doubles up as founder and managing director of Dada Productions, also got involved with another pan-African film initiative that will see her make a film in Kenya. More on this later, though.
Kahiu and Dada Productions came to the limelight in 2004 when they organised a film workshop at Film Studios with the aim of equipping local filmmakers with skills to work internationally. Since then, Dada Productions has been in the forefront in promoting what Kahiu calls “dialogue about Third Cinema within Kenya.”
“We promote a healthy dialogue about culture, class struggle, women’s roles, religion and social attitudes, all through the context of film,” Kahiu says.
In 2005, Dada Productions was commissioned to work on its first documentary for international release. The result was THE SPARK THAT UNITES, a film about a young actor’s process as he transforms himself from the New York-born Derek Luke to play Patrick Chamusso, a South African freedom fighter who took up arms against the Apartheid regime. “The documentary reveals a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the internationally-acclaimed CATCH A FIRE feature film by Working Title and Universal Films.”
Soon after this, Dada Productions wrote, directed and produced RAS STAR, a short feature film for M-Net New Directions programme. The short is the story about a young Muslim girl trying desperately to get to a talent show, despite her brother’s mischief and a local gangster’s attraction.
RAS STAR, according to Kahiu, “celebrates Nairobi youth culture through its choice in music, style and language.”
The film, that was nominated for five African Academy Film Awards, has screened at Rotterdam Film Festival (Holland), Pan African Film Festival (Los Angeles, California, USA) and at Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum, Nairobi (Kenya).