A Kenyan woman director’s short fictional film focusing on the post-election violence was chosen for showing at the New York African Film Festival earlier this month.
Taharuki (Suspense) attracted attention due to its searing subject matter.
Director Ekwa Msangi-Omari, the maker of popular Kenyan television shows such as “The Agency” and “Block-D,” tells a story of a man and woman from different tribes who are working together in an underground movement to halt child trafficking.
Their efforts are disrupted, however, by the election-related ethnic violence that has put them in fear of their lives.
The role of the male activist is played by Gilbert Owuor, who has appeared on theatrical stages in Manhattan, while the part of his colleague is acted by Miriam Chemmoss, a New York-based film performer as well as singer best known for her hit Rudi. Chris Kamau, a TV actor in Los Angeles, plays an intruder who commits a graphic act of violence.
Ms Msangi-Omari told the Nation that she hoped to raise $300,000 needed to turn Taharuki into a full-length feature. In its current 12-minute form, it cost about $7,000 to make.
The longer version “could definitely be shot in Kenya,” Ms Msangi-Omari said. Censorship of her script would probably not occur, despite the film’s controversial subject matter, she said. “But getting it screened around the country would be another story.”
Ms Msangi-Omari, 31, studied at New York University’s prestigious film school. It was there, she said, that her interest in African cinema was ignited. “We don’t get to see African cinema in Africa,” she said.
Her fascination with movies developed when she was a girl in Kenya seeing films by the African-American director Spike Lee.
“He was the only black filmmaker I had ever heard of,” Ms Msangi-Omari said. “I was really impressed to see movies about black people and made by a black person. I didn’t know that was happening.”
Taharuki does not convey any explicit political message, and it only obliquely addresses the mayhem that erupted in early 2008.
Ms Msangi-Omari said there was no violence in the section of Nairobi near her home, but that the effects can still be felt. “A taxi driver who used to work on a particular corner can no longer work on that corner,” she noted.
In the interview conducted at New York’s famed Lincoln Centre performance venue, Ms Msangi-Omari said the problems underlying the violence remain largely unresolved. But she expressed hope for Kenya’s future: “My own peers seem more active, more willing to voice their concerns, so I think my generation, when it does come to power, will probably not repeat the past.”