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Meet Kenyan Filmmaker Philippa Ndisi-Hermann, Watch Her Experimental Short, And Learn About Her Feature "Two Princes"

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act December 12, 2011 at 1:17PM

One thing I love about the work I do hear on S&A is learning about new filmmakers and their work, and then following their careers once that initial discovery is made.
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phillipa

One thing I love about the work I do hear on S&A is learning about new filmmakers and their work, and then following their careers once that initial discovery is made.

I just read about this 26-year-old Kenyan photographer/filmmaker, Philippa Ndisi-Hermann - German-born, but who now calls Kenya home - and the 2 films she's already made; 1 experimental short, and the other a feature documentary. She's now prepping to go into production on her first fictional feature narrative film with a script called Two Princes, which has already received some international attention, after being one of a handful of projects selected for the 2011 Durban FilmMart, which takes place in conjunction with Durban International Film Festival, and provides selected African filmmakers with the opportunity to pitch film projects to an international group of producers and financiers.

No word on whether she's been able to fully fund the feature project yet, but from all I've read in recent news, she plans to go intro production sometime in 2012. I'll be reaching out to her for more details on the project which was also workshopped at Produire Au Sud.

As for what the film is about, I couldn't immediately find a short synopsis for it, but did see this long description of the film by Philippa herself, in an interview she did late last month with the African Women In Cinema blog

To be frank, “Two Princes” is a film that I look forward to watching. It is about love, it is about death, it is about grief and it is about regret. I wrote the narrative because I was overwhelmed with a large bountiful landscape of moving pain in my heart and I knew I needed to write. This was coupled with my curiosity – I had so many questions that I wondered about. In my patriarchal society, what it is like for a woman to return to her husband, after she had left him for another man? Do we judge a woman’s infidelity and “wantonness” more harshly than we would a man’s? In Kenya, our strong Christian, Evangelical majority condemns infidelity, however it is socially accepted for men to have multiple partners and to openly partake in infidelity. A woman accepts that her partner or spouse has other women. These liberties are not extended to women. For women, there is an invisible line between when expression of their own sexuality is a freedom or a form of repression. There seems to be an overarching desire to possess a woman’s sexuality, and if a man fails to possess it, then an undercurrent of contempt brews. In “Two Princes,” the central idea is ownership. I believe there are some things we can and other things we cannot own. We own our self; our body, our thoughts, our pain, our honor, our sexuality. However we must justifiably take responsibility of our actions. We cannot own others; our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children. Our cars, our houses, our land; they can never be truly ours, yet we are fixated on acquiring or keeping them. In Kenya; the desire to own is a common denominator. If we cannot legally acquire land, then we steal it. In the history of Kenya, and many other nations, this desire to own has brought conflict and destruction. My narrative unfolds in Lamu. This Islamic, Creole island embodies the conflict of ownership. Gentrification and animosity are surging. Plans are underway to build “Africa’s largest port. ” I ask, perhaps too naively, why do wealthy foreigners, and the Kenyan and Chinese Government have more say over this land than the people who were born there? Whose land is it anyway? How do we define ownership, and why? These are questions I ask myself, and you see I don’t know the answers, but I engaged myself on this journey to put myself there, and to get one step closer to the truth. In this phase of my life, I believe we all have our life journeys and we all have to live them – and we can’t stop others from living their life, and in turn we should have the freedom to live ours. I believe as long as we know why we do something, and as long as it is in line with our life journey, and we know why we embark on a certain voyage, and the implications of such a voyage – and if it does not harm somebody - then do it. I believe this – but sometimes I doubt my belief - what happens to the people you leave behind? What if the damage is irreparable? What if you regret it? I don’t know. I don’t know this answer. But I want to find out. I like “Two Princes” for many reasons – it is a film I need to make in order to let go of certain things I hold onto. It will be very cathartic for me. I find it to be such a hard and taking story to write and revisit. I find the story heavy. But it is an extension of me. This story needs to be made. This story needs to be told. I am also enthusiastic about the contribution that the film will make, certainly to Kenyan and African cinema. The film is slow – its personal and moody but very loving. I would like to finish “Two Princes” by the end of next year 2012 – or latest early 2013.

So there ya have it... her motivations and themes she plans to explore should be clear enough I hope, even though she doesn't say exactly what the film's plot is. But given that she's more of an experimental filmmaker, I'd guess the feature will likely have an experimental nature to it... or maybe not. When I chat with her, I'll know more.

In the meantime, 2 videos below... the first one is the filmmaker introducing herself in what looks like a video application for the Film Afrika development project; and underneath that is a short film she made in 2007, when she was in her early 20s, which was a Film Afrika-backed work, titled Gubi - The Birth of Fruit; it's dialogue-free, but I love the images, which tell the tale; its synopsis reads: "he first tribe to roam the earth, rely on food from the heavens. When Nok's belly grows full after sharing her fruit with Nto, the Queen of the tribe grows jealous and banishes her from the community."

And here's the short:

This article is related to: Profile, Shorts


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