The essential Jinna Mutune


While Africa’s film talent is still largely in its infancy, there are already individuals
who will undoubtedly remain relevant in its unfolding history. One among them is
Jinna Mutune, a Kenyan woman filmmaker whose heart beats for the African story
to be voiced beyond its borders.

Growing up in a middle class family in Nairobi, Mutune’s starved yearnings for
storytelling were fulfilled when she attended AFDA – the South African School of
Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance.

“I needed a film education and I continued researching till I came across AFDA, one
of a handful of quality film schools in Africa at the time, which enabled me to
research film directing as a career,’ she says. “Including the prospects for income,
they always pulled me back to the practical matters of budgets, plans and goals
that would really help me later on.’

Starting at an early age, her vision was to tell epic tales with African heroes as the

“When I was eight years old my best friend and I fancied the idea of being super
heroes. We tried out our super hero powers and jumped off two feet skyscrapers.
The desire to be a super hero is in most people,’ she says.

The multicultural filmmaker, who has written, directed and produced films, music
videos and theatricals, is passionate about stirring up African innovation and
invention. She released her film Leo last year and it has been getting positive

“It was always my dream to shoot a film about the beauty that exits in Kenya. I
also wanted to challenge the stereotypical images that portrayed Africa as a famine
stricken, poverty and disease infested continent.’

Leo, meaning “today’ in Swahili, is a story about ambition, passion and realising
dreams against all odds, done in the African context. She believes that with a film
like Leo, Kenya and Africa will be better placed to attract investors.

“Art imitates life and life imitates art, therefore the purpose of the film is to subtly
“re-brand’ Kenya to the western hemisphere through the visual medium of film and
to portray the true realities of Africa.’ Mutune says: “This will only happen by
showcasing a film narrative that is entertaining as well as inspiring.’

The film involved DOP Abe Martinez, a renowned Hollywood director of photography
who shot the film Hitch. To Mutune it was an important step in ensuring the
seriousness of her dream and the quality of the film.

“When we were shooting Leo two years ago, the Kenyan Industry was so young in
the area of cinematography expertise, so we opted to go with a renowned name but
we also created a mentor – mentee structure where the more experienced crew
could train the less experienced crew.’

The film was financed by local investors – mostly friends and family, a typical way
for independent filmmakers to realise their dreams.

Mutune believes she did learn her lessons and it’s with such lessons that she still
thinks, without a shadow of a doubt, that Africa has to leap beyond Western media,
which tends to portray the continent as a hopeless frontier with no place for great

But before the outside world comes here, she is emphatic that she should be
judged, criticised and challenged as a craftsman and not by her gender.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,’ Mutune says. “I love my
femininity and my self-confidence as a woman in the work place is important but
it’s equally important that I respect everyone whether they are male or female in
senior or subordinate positions.’

Living in Africa as a filmmaker is a worthwhile opportunity and for Mutune it creates
an important prospect to tell the African story, the African way.
“If you are a young filmmaker in Africa, you are a pioneer; we are at a magical
moment where there is a global focus on Africa and that translates automatically to
the fact that there is a need for African content.’


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