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Wanuri Kahiu Talks Depicting Outlawed Love In 'Jambula Tree' Film Adaptation

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 29, 2013 at 1:49PM

Raoul Peck was the patron of the 2013 edition of the Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde - a joint initiative between the Institut francais, the International Organisation of La Francophonie and the Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France, aimed at finding financing for the work of filmmakers from the under-represented groups globally.
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Wanuri Kahiu
Wanuri Kahiu

Raoul Peck was the patron of the 2013 edition of the Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde - a joint initiative between the Institut francais, the International Organisation of La Francophonie and the Audiovisuel Extérieur de la Franceaimed at finding financing for the work of filmmakers from the under-represented groups globally.

The program's 2013 project line-up, which takes place during the Cannes Film Festival, includes feature projects from AlgeriaBurkina FasoKenyaSouth AfricaRwandaHaitiBrazilColombiaArmenia, and the Philippines.

Launched in 2009, the Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde has hosted projects from 60 directors from 35 countries to date. In 2012, some 80% of the projects presented received co-production deals within six months of the event.

The Fabrique is housed in the Cinéma du Monde pavilion at Cannes. 

One of the 9 director/producer teams was Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu (Pumzi) and South African producer Steven Markovitz (Viva Riva!, African Metropolis) and their feature film project titled Jambula Tree - a South African-Kenya co-production.

Plot details on Jambula Tree (based on a short story that won the Caine Prize for short stories in 2007) are being kept under wraps for now, although we can tell you that, broadly, it centers on 2 Kenyan girls, on 2 different paths, and the difficult decisions each has to make about the life each leads, and the ramifications of those choices.

Although, in an interview with Africultures, Kahiu talks much more in-depth about the project, revealing further details about it. Here's a snip:

My first and foremost concern was to find a love story. This is what I wanted to do. When I came across Jambula Tree, because of the texture and the nuances, just the profound love that the main characters had to each other, I wanted to tell that story. Even though it's a hard subject because it's taboo, two girls falling in love with each other in a country where this is outlawed, it was very important for me to tell a love story because that's what it is: how true love can triumph above anything. And I think, having been in many situations in my own life, the most courageous thing that anyone can do is to choose true love above one else and I think it takes a special kind of skill to choose true love that is difficult instead of what is expected. 

You can read much more on the project, and her collaboration with Markovitz at: http://www.africultures.com/php/index.php?nav=article&no=11754#sthash.y58UVGpW.dpuf

Thanks to the African Women In Cinema blog for the link.

Steven Markovitz has certainly become quite the producing force in continental Africa, with Viva Riva!'s success, as well as upcoming initiatives like the ImagiNations and African Metropolis Pan-African projects, and Djo Munga's next feature, the China/DRC project Inspector Lou.

And Wanuri Kahiu is a filmmaker we've had our eyes on since the debut of her acclaimed sci-fi short Pumzi, produced under the Focus Features Africa First program 4 years ago. 

The author of the short story that the film will be based on, Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko, was the eighth winner of the annual Caine Prize, created in honor of the late Sir Michael Caine, a British businessman with African interests who, for almost 25 years, chaired the management committee of what is today known as the Man Booker Prize. Arac de Nyeko was shortlisted for the prize in 2004 for another story, Strange Fruit.

Sudanese writer Jamal Mahjoub, chairman of the 2007 Caine judges, praised Jambula Tree as "a witty and touching portrait of a community... affected forever by a love which blossoms between two adolescents.

At a reading before she was named the Caine Prize winner, Arac de Nyeko summed up the story as simply "a story really about innocence."

Now we wait to see what comes of the film adaptation of Jambula Tree.

This article is related to: Wanuri Kahiu


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