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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.


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04 April 2024

Carolyn Khamete Mango. The presence of women in the Kenyan film industry: applying postcolonial African feminist theory. PhD thesis. 2023

Carolyn Khamete Mango.
The presence of women in the Kenyan film industry: applying postcolonial African feminist theory
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow

In this study, I examine the presence of Kenyan women in the film industry through the lens of postcolonial African feminism. Situating the study in this theoretical framework heightened the awareness that ideologies of womanhood and struggles against gender oppression intersect and cannot be analysed without considering the contextualisation of womanhood. Postcolonial African feminist theory reflects that issues that affect women in each place and time are different (former colonies and western regions). This study explores and uses the afro feminist lens to analyse the responses by Kenyan women filmmakers to comment on filmmaking in Kenya. The film industry offers an important arena where manifestations of African feminism can be explored, as espoused by the women filmmakers in this study: Matrid Nyagah, Jinna Mutune, Ng’endo Mukii, Wanuri Kahiu, Judy Kibinge, Dommie Yambo-Odotte, and Anne Mungai.

By adopting a qualitative research design using face-to-face semi-structured interviews, I examined the filmmakers’ career paths, motivations, perceptions, challenges, and barriers to getting into and remaining in a male-dominated industry.

The thesis reveals that the level of Kenyan women’s representation in the film industry on the global scene was proof that the women were empowered, competent, talented, and able to tell their stories through their lived experiences.

The study also identifies barriers and challenges that impede their reach to a wider audience. Key among them were the lack of proper film schools in Kenya that teach the requisite content, the ongoing patriarchal system, the lack of defined film culture, a lack of a government policy on film, lack of government support, lack of funding, and poor marketing and distribution channels, among others that seem to truncate the full potential of women in the film industry.

I argue that Kenyan women filmmakers have excelled, given an excellent account of the stories they tell from their lived experiences. These filmmakers’ films not only deal with women’s issues, Africa, war, famine, disease, and the girl child alone but also seem to focus on neo-feminism (as defined by Obioma Nnaemeka) and tackle subjects on sexuality, female emancipation, mother-daughter relationships, HIV/AIDS, drugs, science and technology, post- election violence and terrorism. Neo-feminism offers space for women filmmakers to work alongside men since it advocates for negotiating with them to achieve hard ideals.

The study found that though women in the Kenyan film industry did not agree they were working within a feminist framework, they objected to the western attitude toward feminism. It is also found that whereas some of the women filmmakers trained locally, the training they received abroad contributed to their being better filmmakers. Indeed, the Kenyan film industry has offered mixed signals as regards supporting its women filmmakers. While the government has faltered, the women filmmaker's grit and sense of purpose have helped them stamp their presence in the film industry both locally and internationally. Also, the study revealed that despite the important role women filmmakers play in the film industry, there was a lack of support from the government. However, family members continued to provide both financial and emotional support to the women filmmakers to live up to their dream. In addition, the lack of a national film policy to regulate the film industry meant that gender was not mainstreamed in it. Women filmmakers continue to negotiate for space through their passion, supporting and mentoring each other, recognising other women’s efforts in the industry through film awards and establishing funding opportunities specifically for women but also for men.

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