Film
Image courtesy of Ng'endo Mukii

We Spoke to Kenyan Filmmaker Ng'endo Mukii About Taking Part in TIFF's Filmmaker Lab

Mukii was the only African to take part in the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival's professional development program.

"As a Kenyan filmmaker, it means a lot. It validates my journey."

Ng'endo Mukii spent a busy week at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) taking part in the Filmmaker Lab program. The professional development program is part of TIFF's industry conference, and brought together 22 emerging directors from all over the world. Ng'endo was the only filmmaker selected from the African continent.

Using a workshop approach, the participants were exposed to ideas and approaches to film making from a range of perspectives, with mentors like producer Cassian Elwes (Mudbound) and director Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust). "Different ways of making film," she reports, "different ideologies. That's what I've been doing this week."


Screenings and talks took up part of their sessions. Aside from one speaker who waxed poetic about the old days of film – without recognizing, as Ng'endo pointed out, the fact that his golden era excluded so many by reason of money, race, and gender – she says the experience and the ideas she came away with were revelatory. "They're going to inform my process. I feel like I'm being molded in a way."


Photo courtesy of Ng'endo Mukii

The workshops also dealt with the business side of indie filmmaking, including co-production possibilities available around the world. "People have been really generous sharing information," she says. In addition to the TIFF Filmmaker Lab, Ng'endo has held numerous residencies over the last few years, participated in workshops and film festivals, and guest lectured from Nairobi to Stockholm.

Ng'endo came to film making by way of an educational background in visual art and design. She graduated from the Royal College of Art in London, UK, and the Rhode Island School of Design in the USA.

To this point in her career, Ng'endo's specialty has been in the short film format, for which she's won numerous awards. Yellow Fever, her 2013 thesis project at the Royal College of Art, won the Silver Hugo for The Best Animated Short at the Chicago International Film Festival, among other awards and multiple nominations. The film, named after the Fela Kuti song, looks at the phenomenon of skin bleaching through a combination of animation and live action.

Her film This Migrant Business won Best Animation Production at the 2015 Kalasha Awards. Her innovative virtual reality film, Nairobi Berries, won the Immersive Encounters Grand Prix at the prestigious Encounters Short Film Festival in the UK in 2017.

Her body of work also includes photography and printmaking. The latter discipline earned her an invitation to serve as Artist in Residence for the Framtidens Grafikin project in Sweden in November 2017. All of her endeavors focus on social issues and the perspective of African women in the world.

Ng'endo firmly believes that film means so much more than just entertainment. It can have an impact – but that impact can go both ways. Based in Nairobi, she describes an uncertain working environment. "Our government has turned off the TV when they don't like what's going on," she notes.

For her next project, she's developing her first feature film, The Goat Sunday. The story will revolve around two sisters, forced to battle supernatural forces when they are sent to live with their ultra-conservative religious grandparents. Ng'endo says the film will be largely live action, with animation and CGI used to bring out the fantasy/sci-fi elements of the story.

She's anticipating a reaction to the new project, which puts religious fundamentalism under a microscope. It's an issue that touches hot buttons in Kenya. "There will be a lot of blow back," she says. But, she sees the effort as necessary, and has set her artistic sights on tackling the divisive issue. "Religion fails to protect children," she says. "It's about the patriarchy."

Along with examining the oppressive role of religion in society as a theme, on the technical side, she sees her efforts over the next while focusing more on live action than on animation. She confesses to a certain level of animation fatigue that many artists will relate to. "It's tiring. I love it, but it's tiring." Using animation techniques to enhance live action opens up new possibilities. "Things don't have to be realistic."

Ng'endo is set on developing a long term career, but sees it as largely uncharted territory. "We have really strong female filmmakers in Kenya," she says. "There's very few that have longevity."

Check out more of Ng'endo Mukii's short films on Vimeo here.


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(From left to right) Stéphane Bak and Marc Zinga in 'The Mercy of the Jungle.' Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Congolese Actor Stéphane Bak on His Intense Experience Shooting 'The Mercy of the Jungle' In Uganda

We catch up with the actor after the film made its North American premiere at TIFF.

When actor Stéphane Bak first got the script for The Mercy of the Jungle (La Miséricorde de la Jungle), he knew there was one person he had to consult: his father. "My dad did school me about this," he says. While Bak was born and raised in France, his parents had emigrated from what was then Zaire in the 1980s—before the events of the movie, and not exactly in the same area, but close enough to be able to pass on firsthand knowledge of the simmering ethnic tensions that underpin the action.

The story takes place in 1998, just after the outbreak of the Second Congo War—which came hot on the heels of the First Congo War. Two Rwandan soldiers find themselves separated from their company and have to make a harrowing trek through the jungle to link back up with their regiment. Bak plays Private Faustin, the young recruit hunting Hutu rebels to avenge his murdered family, a foil to Marc Zinga's seasoned Sergeant Xavier. As a Congolese militia swarms the area, and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell enemies from friends, the two are forced off the road and into the thick vegetation.

Their journey is physically difficult, but the jungle also nurtures them, providing food, water, and shelter. "The title is very explicit in a way," says Bak. It is the human beings they encounter, from rival soldiers and militiamen to the hostile security forces guarding illegal gold mining operations, who bring sudden danger and violence. The challenges are conveyed as much through the actors' physicality as through the minimal dialogue. As for the strain on his face, Bak says it was all real. "To be honest, it was very difficult," he says of the shoot, which took him 25 days. "I had to learn my accent in two weeks." Prior to commencing, there was training with the Ugandan army for realism. Due to the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, the movie itself was shot in Uganda.

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Brazil Has Made Yoruba an Official Language

The language will also be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum in the country, says the Minister of Culture.

Yoruba history and culture has an undeniably strong presence in Brazilian society, due of course, to the Transatlantic slave trade which brought millions of enslaved West Africans to the Americas. Despite the inhumanity they faced, many managed to keep their ancestral culture and traditions alive.

Centuries have passed, and Yoruba influences still continue to thrive in various regions of the country, as many Brazilians maintain a strong relationship with the language and religion. Its influence can be seen through the music, food and spiritual practices of various communities. Last month the Ooni of Ife—the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people—visited the country, where he was met by crowds of Black Brazilians who turned up to pay their respects.

This connection will likely remain strong for future generations, as the language has now become an official foreign language in the country.

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Brazil's Minister of Culture, Dr. Sérgio Sá Leitão, has said that the language will now be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculum, reports the Nigerian Voice.

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Get into Telefunksoul and Felipe Pomar's Ré_Con Ba$$ EP.

Brazilian producers Felipe Pomar (of TrapFunk & Alivio) and Telefunksoul come through with a dizzyingly energetic EP in the form of Ré_Con Ba$$.

Telefunksoul, who happens to be one of the main promoters of Bahia Bass music, came up with the concept of exploring the rhythms coming out of Recôncavo of Bahia and showing how they can fit into bass music.

Through the 7-track Ré_Con Ba$$ EP, him and Pomar mold and transform the diverse music of Bahia, fusing its rhythms with afrobeat, future house, deep house and much more.

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