NAIROBI, Jan. 2 (IPS) - A stunning new Kenyan film, featuring a defiant
Masaai girl, has been attracting tens of thousandsn of viewers since it
opened in Nairobi two weeks ago.
The movie, 'Saikati the Enkabaani', directed by Ann Mungai, features
23-year-old Esther Muthee in the starring role. She defies her Masaai
culture and becomes a flying nurse rebutting the attempts of her paternal
uncle to marry her off.
Muthee is a 3rd year University of Nairobi economics student and part-time
model. She plays the role of 'Saikati" - a student nurse for the Africa
Medical Research Foundation (Amref) - who, after completing her university
degree course, disappoints her uncle who wants to give her away in an
With support from her mother, Saikati runs back to Nairobi to live with her
cousin as she pursues a flying nursing course, a decision she had made after
she watched her father die of a curable disease.
''I had to skip five weeks of lectures at the beginning of 1998 in order to
make the film,'' says Muthee. She says her life has changed since producer
called her up in September to participate in the movie. ''I had met Lenny a
few months earlier at a modelling agency office (in Nairobi) where he had
come looking for models to cast in a beer commercial,'' she says. Muthee
confesses she was touched after reading Saikati's role. ''She is very much
like me,'' she says. Viewers, too, are delighted. ''I wanted to watch (local
star) Tony Njuguna my dream man do what he does best. And I must admit it is
the best Kenyan movie I
have seen.'', says Irene Mbogoh, a saleswoman at a Nairobi computer firm.
Her only disappointment was that the movie was soft on romance. ''Kissing
and fondling by characters in the movie didn't look real,'' she says, adding
that ''true lovers don't kiss on the cheek.''
Peter Ursher of Luton, Britain, also showered accolades on the movie. ''I
simply wanted to watch a movie and Enkabaani was the best option for us,''
says Ursher who is visiting with his fiancee. ''The movie provided us with
the marvelous chance
to learn about the many facets of Kenyan life.'' According to Ursher, the
movie has the potential to attract more tourists to Kenya. ''The panoramic
view of the Great
Rift Valley seen from Saikati's rural home is something to behold,'' Ursher
says, adding that ''it will attract more tourists.''
Most local movie critics say the movie could have scooped awards had it been
entered in the 'M-Net All Africa Awards' competition. ''I think 'Saikati the
Enkabaani' is the best feature film ever made in Kenya,'' says Margaretta wa
Gacheru, a theatre critic with the 'Daily Nation', Kenya's leading
Saikati the Enkabaani (Masaai word for Saikati the Doctor) is the sequel of
the first movie -- Saikati -- also directed by Mungai in which the original
actress 'Saikati' rebelled against the rigid Masaai culture. ''During the
shooting of Saikati, we had a meagre budget and could not afford to do half
as many slick cinematographic
tricks as does in Enkabaani,'' says Mungai. This include aerial filming from
single-engine 'Sesna' aircraft that was provided by Amref's Flying Doctors
role in the film was crucial to the success of its making. Mungai also
attributes the success of her movie to Ettie Feldman, a South African
cinematographer who edited the movie. Feldman was also an M-Net All Africa
Muthee, who had never acted before a camera before this film,admits ''the
crew gave me a lot of support.'' But she says the Kenya movie industry ''has
yet to treat its stars and celebrities as their counterparts in the West or
Hollywood.'' She also accuses the directors and producers of paying them
little wages - she says she is yet to be paid for the role she played in
December's shooting. Muthee, who began acting in the theatre and singing on
the Church choir at the age of three, says her family is supportive of her
new role in the movie. The film also has a host of
local casts including Njuguna, Francis Imbuga, Wambui Murima, David Mulwa,
Jacob Otieno and Jimmy Gathu. Also in the cast is 81-year-old Dr Ann Spoerry
who plays a pivotal role in the film as a flying instructor. Speorry as the
first Kenyan woman to fly an aeroplane.
The climax of the movie, in fact, is when Saikati is forced to take charge
of the cockpit of an Amref aircraft, after the pilot who took her to the
remote parts of Kenya becomes ill.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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