Kenyan film leads the way in African animation


In her award-winning animated short Yellow Fever, Kenyan filmmaker Ng’endo
Mukii tackles the effect the media has on African women and their perception of
beauty, in particular ideals of a classic European concept of what defines good
looks, such as fair skin and flowing locks of hair.

Through her use of mixed media, Mukii addresses the distorted view people
have of themselves in her cinematic investigation of the concepts of race and
skin and what they imply.

With hand-drawn animation, computer animation, pixilation and live action,
Yellow Fever challenges individuals susceptible to practices such as skin
bleaching, but also the people who create these ideals.

Yellow Fever was Mukii’s thesis movie, made in 2012 at the Royal College of Art
in London. The young Kenyan said she had no expectations of the project, which
has now gone on to screen at festivals around the globe, receiving numerous
nominations and awards.

The movie has received various accolades such as Best Animation at the 7th
Kenya International Film Festival, Best Short Film at the 2013 Africa Magic
Viewers’ Choice Awards, The Silver Hugo for Best Animated Short Film at the
49th Chicago International Film Festival and Best Animation at This is England
Film Festival in France, to name a few.

Additionally Yellow Fever screened in competition and showed at 40 other film
festivals in the world.

Unexpected success

“When I completed Yellow Fever I was only focused on making the deadline for
my exam, I wasn’t thinking beyond the classroom. Now, looking back, I realise
how naive I was in terms of the festival circuit and how these things work, such
as the potential for one’s film to travel and gain worldwide exposure, and what
this can mean for one in practical terms as a filmmaker,’ says Mukii.

“I’m still learning about these things every day so mostly I’d say I have been
pretty surprised by it,’ she continues. “When I completed my film I remember I
sent a DVD copy to my mom in Nairobi, and she called me and asked if there was
anything more to my film. She nicknamed Yellow Fever my kafilm which means
“little’ film. I think we all had “little’ expectations of the film and had not realised
what would happen as a result of making it.’


Now regarded as a game-changer in African film, Mukii comments that it is only
natural that women would rise in prominence with the general buoyancy of
filmmaking on the continent. She adds that the profile of the medium is definitely
rising: “People are becoming more exposed to the work that is being created on
the continent, and are more open to consuming this work, which was perhaps
not the case previously.

“Globally there is more access to digital equipment and less costly methods of
filmmaking, so naturally regions where it has been more complicated to create
films are now opening up and producing more and more work.’

Along with this comes the increased interconnectivity between countries. “We as
Africans (and as a planet really) can learn from each other and share ideas with
the world in a way that just was not possible 20 years ago. I think this
influences the way we consume and make films on a very conscious level,’ Mukii

Subsequent projects

Following the success of Yellow Fever, Mukii now has two projects in
development, of which one is a documentary animation called 50 Steps, for
which she has received development funds from the DocuBox East African
Documentary Fund.

She says: “The film seeks to define the Kenyan identity using recollections and
personal stories. The other is called The Teapot and it’s a live-action-animation
fusion film following the day in a life of a woman with a hyperactive imagination,
living in Nairobi.’

Mukii has received an Africa First grant from Focus Features to shoot The Teapot,
but is looking for more funding during its animation and post-production phases.

Apart from drawing inspiration from her worldwide travels and her immense love
for her Kenyan homeland and heritage, Mukii says that the movies Pan’s
Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro, The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry and
Rungano Nyoni’s Mwansa The Great, have fuelled her imagination and creativity.

“These brilliant movies have a timeless beauty and play with the boundaries of
magical realism, fantasy, and social reality in a very tactile and artistic way.’

Still coming to terms with her achievements, Mukii concludes: “Personally, Yellow
Fever’s worldwide acclaim has significantly helped to boost my confidence in
terms of believing in myself as a filmmaker, as long as I apply myself in my work.
Of course this reflects professionally as this confidence helps to direct the
decisions I make in my career.’


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