The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

07 July 2011

Wanjiru Kairu: A Portrait

Wanjiru Kairu
Wanjiru Kairu speaks about what inspired her to be a filmmaker, the Kenyan film industry, and her latest work Weakness.

Wanjiru, could talk a bit about yourself?
I’m a lover of art. From an early age, I always found myself drawn to a wide range of artistic expression for the reason that it informs, investigates and challenges our beliefs. Art simply put, inspires us to find solutions or create the alternative. I paint on occasion, write a lot, and about 5 years ago, I eventually combined these talents into making films.

How did you come to filmmaking? What were your experiences with cinema growing up in Kenya?
Before I made films I loved watching them. I didn’t really think about the process concerning how they got made, that is, until my sister started working in the Kenyan film industry.

Post college I happily found myself writing copy. However, a couple of months of “the client wants us to tone it down”, I got out of the AD world and went right into making films. The transition was quite simple. I would write screenplays instead of copy and sell my product which had now taken the shape of a film and not spare car parts.

Locally, Wanjiru Kinyanjui, Judy Kibinge and Willie Owusu are some of the filmmakers that inspired me to tell our own stories, remember our histories, and be bold enough to create our future.

A scene from Weakness by Wanjiru Kairu
Your latest film Weakness has travelled internationally at film festivals and has been well received. What inspired the topic of the film and what were some of the highlights during the film production?
Weakness came together when I met writer/executive producer Abdu Simba on an MNET commissioned series that producer Ekwa Msangi-Omari had created.

Abdu had originally crafted Weakness for the stage after a quick adaptation, asked me whether I was interested in working on a short he wanted to produce. It was beautifully written, with rich and dynamic characters. The script had me in at “Fade In”.

Making the film was a wonderful experience. The film’s actor Maqbul Mohammed  was nominated for a 2010 Kalasha Award for Best Supporting Actor, and it was nominated for a 2011 African Movie Academy Award as Best Short Film.

What have been the reactions of the audiences regarding the film?
I feel honoured that the film has reached many audiences. The reception that Weakness has received has been overwhelmingly good. I’ve had people ask for a sequel. 

Your production company, One Boy Productions, what is its mission and objectives?
One Boy Productions is a Nairobi-based audio-visual production house that offers full support services for both international and local clients. Our competence areas are in the production of television shows, commercials, PSA’S, documentaries, corporate videos, among others.
Oneboy’s key objective is to empower Africans in developing their skills in front of and behind the camera.
Kenyan Cinema is increasingly visible in Africa and internationally, what role would you like to play to ensure an even larger place in world cinema?
My goal is to keep doing what I do only doing it better. The films I make have got to be compelling, original and successful in promoting dialogue on social issues.

Future projects?
Plenty. I’m currently developing my first feature screenplay and collaborating with others in their film and television projects.

Interview by Beti Ellerson, July 2011

Synopsis

Nicky, an alcoholic on the road to recovery has a problem. Severely in debt to his belligerent older brother Robbie, Nicky needs yet another loan to tide him over, on this occasion to pay the fees for his teenage daughter, Lola, to attend college. But when the sibling rivalry boils over, the brothers get more than they bargained for.

Links
Weakness on Riverflix


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