THE LETTER, a critically acclaimed Kenyan documentary directed and produced by Maia Lekow and Christopher King, has premiered in Kenya. The film’s cast and crew held a successful launch event at Alpha Fit in Nairobi on Thursday, December 10, 2020. The film is currently showing at Prestige Cinema, Westgate Cinema, Anga Diamond, and Unseen Nairobi in Nairobi; Mega City in Kisumu, and Nyali Cinemax in Mombasa beginning this Saturday, December 20th.
THE LETTER, filmed with a gentle pace and incredible closeness, is a story that speaks to every Kenyan family. It delves into the universal theme of how land is divided when an elder dies, which is complicated by the chaotic mix of traditions vs. modern values and religion. In the end, despite the growing threat of greed and divisions between the young and old within families, the resilience of family and community shines brightest.
The Kenyan Film Commission officially selected the film produced by Circle & Square Productions under the umbrella of Docubox East African Film Fund as Kenya’s official submission to the Oscars Best International Film category. Maia, a well-known Kenyan musician, also wrote the original soundtrack.
“Making The Letter over six years has been a transformative journey for both of us,” Maia and Chris said, adding, “Each person in the film faces extreme personal risk by openly discussing the taboos surrounding witchcraft, and it is our hope that the bravery of this family can help break the silent cycle of violence that continues to wreak havoc amongst families across the region.”
THE LETTER is a gripping family drama shot over six years about a 95-year-old Grandmother with a fearless spirit who must overcome dangerous accusations of witchcraft from within her own family. Karisa, her grandson, returns from the city to investigate, and it gradually becomes clear who sent the threatening letter and why.
In 2013, the couple set out to investigate the story of female freedom fighter Mekatilili, an elderly priestess from Kenya’s coast who led an armed uprising against the British in 1913. Fighting the colonialists’ confiscation of traditionally owned land, Mekatilili was eventually imprisoned and persecuted as a witch.
THE LETTER was supposed to be released in Kenya in June 2020, but it was pushed back due to COVID lock-down measures. So far, the film has screened at some of the world’s most prestigious international film festivals, including DOC NYC, AFI Docs, IDFA, Durban, and Docs Barcelona, where it received a Special Jury Mention. It was also nominated for a One World Media Award for Best Documentary, as well as an African Movie Academy Award for Best Documentary.
THE LETTER aims to raise awareness about the need to protect Kenya’s vulnerable elderly and to make the abolition of elderly abuse a national priority by launching the hashtag #watunzewazee.
Maia and Chris conclude in the Director’s Statement, “As we spoke with many elders about this oral history, we were saddened to hear of violence occurring now against the elderly in the area, due to an outbreak of witchcraft accusations.”
Netflix and UNESCO Are Looking For The Next Generation of African Filmmakers
Netflix and UNESCO have teamed up to establish an innovative short film competition in Sub-Saharan Africa called “African Folktales, Reimagined.” The competition’s winners will receive industry training and mentoring, as well as a US$75,000 production budget, to create short films that will premiere on Netflix in 2022 as a “Anthology of African Folktales.”
One of the competition’s main goals is to find fresh perspectives and provide young filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa global exposure. We want to identify the most daring, witty, and surprising retellings of some of Africa’s most beloved folktales and share them with entertainment enthusiasts in over 190 countries across the world.
It is important that the film sector acts to ensure the voices of Africa are heard, by supporting the emergence of diverse cultural expressions, putting forth new ideas and emotions, and creating opportunities for creators to contribute to global dialogue for peace, culture and development.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
The tournament, which will be run by Dalberg, will run from October 14th until November 14th, 2021. Each of the six winners will get a US$75,000 production grant (via a local production firm) to create, shoot, and post-produce their films with the help of Netflix and industry mentors, ensuring that everyone engaged in the production is fairly compensated. In addition, each of the six winners will get a cash prize of $25,000 apiece.
Both UNESCO and Netflix agree on the importance of promoting and sharing varied local stories with the rest of the globe. They recognize that many aspiring filmmakers struggle to get the resources and exposure they need to fully realize their potential and advance their creative careers. This competition aims to address these difficulties and provide a platform for African storytellers to showcase their work to a worldwide audience.
This alliance will also assist to create long-term jobs and stimulate economic growth, contributing to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a set of goals aimed at ending global poverty in all of its forms by the end of this decade. This film festival will also contribute to the reduction of disparities by allowing access to global markets and ensuring decent working conditions. All of these are important targets for the 2030 Agenda.
Afrotape to Focus on it’s Community
Today marks 3 years since Afrotape was formed. What began as a platform for artists’ services has evolved into a youth brand that will be the leading voice on African culture. It’s been a fascinating and challenging journey, full of invaluable experiences and life lessons that have shaped us into the people we are today. (more…)
APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN: ANIMATION TRAINING FOR EAST AFRICAN WOMEN
The Ladima Foundation announced earlier this year a cooperation with Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA) and the Kwetu International Animation Film Festival (KIAFF) to provide training, development, and professional opportunities to women working in the animation industry in East Africa. (more…)
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