Sunday, August 8, 2010

ActNow Profiles...

Wanjiru Kairu

Wanjiru Kairu is a filmmaker based in Kenya. Her primary goal is to create films that promote social dialogue. Her film "Weakness" was the official selection at: Kenya International Film Festival 2009, Amakula International film Festival 2009, Umoja Film Festival 2010, Pan African Film Festival 2010 and New York African Film Festival 2010.

We caught up with the filmmaker. She talks about creating "Weakness", filmmaking and her future projects.

What lead you to create "Weakness"?

Abdu Simba, the screenplay writer and executive producer of the film "Weakness" and I met during a story-lining process of an East African television series that Ekwa Msangi-Omari had created and was contracted to produce. It was there that we all got to talk about our passion for film, the challenges and frustrations involved in the process and generally where we'd like to see the East African film industry grow and develop to.

A few months later, Abdu dusted off a script that he'd made for the stage, reworked it then sent it over.

"Weakness" was easy to fall in love with, the hopeless characters and the situations they were in really touched and connected with me. We just had to make this film.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

Due to budgetary constraints we had one day to shoot the film. Still, it was a really good experience, making "Weakness", and I'd do it again.

What impact do you think this film will have on American audiences?

I sincerely don't know and would very much like to see how an American audience will react to this film, the questions they'll have, and whether they'll think the storyline to be too 'African' or heavily influenced by the west.

"Weakness" stars great Kenyan actors. What direction did you give your actors to help bring the characters to life?

I'm grateful I had some of Kenya's best talent in this film. It would have been hard to pull it off in a day's shoot with novices, and like all professional actors Maqbull Muhammad, Chichi Seii and Melvin Alusa kept giving their best, take after take.

What can you tell us about your first feature Transcedence?

The screenplay is a little ambitious in that it's an African Superhero storyline. It's also very much in its inception stage and there are many mythical and legendary stories that I'm consuming right now, so there are countless options as to how it could go.

What sparks your creativity?

Good books. People are very interesting to observe, questions and learn from. Good music, watching really good films and sometimes asking yourself "what if"?

What keeps you motivated?

My goal is to be instrumental in raising the standards of the films that come from the East AFrican region...and when the going gets tough, I have a support system (family and friends) that help me focus on this goal.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers and writers?

Just do it. Make your mistakes and learn from them. Don't ever stop writing, or creating your films.

How would you describe your directing style?

In a word - chameleon. Every film calls for a different treatment and approach and as a filmmaker, I want to make films that provoke discussion, whether it is about the content or the style.

Finally, can you name a film that changed your life?

Wow, I wouldn't say "changed my life" but, there are films far too many to mention that trigger new ideas and call into question long held beliefs about life or art. Off the top of my head, I'd say She's Gotta Have It by Spike Lee and Quartier Mozart by Jean-Pierre Bekolo.

Check out "Weakness" August 11th at Littlefield. Showtime 7:15pm

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