Catherine Wangui Muigai

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000.
Catherine Wangui Muigai

Interview held during the 15th FESPACO, February 1997, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Catherine, could you talk about yourself and how you came to be a producer?

I am a video and film producer in Kenya.  I have always been interested in films dealing with women's and children's issues.  As I am a woman, I feel that I am more conversant with those topics.  I read the different scripts that come to me and if they interest me, and they are along those lines, I choose them.

There are not many films from Kenya and it has only been recently that a cinema tradition has emerged.  Could you discuss filmmaking in Kenya and women's presence in this field?

There are not many women filmmakers, but there are a few of them, one of the women that I work with, who has produced a feature film, is Anne Mungai.  The film Saikati won several awards during FESPACO 1993, and I feel that she is an authority in that field, and I am very happy to be working with her.  We are working on her next feature, which will be called Saikati II.  I am looking forward to it.  In fact, we have already started.  We have shot the first few scenes and we are continuing to look for the funding to continue.  We have gotten a lot of goodwill, as well as equipment and lighting for free.

We are working with other production companies in Kenya.  We have come together and are working as a team.  We have the Kenya Film Producers Association and most of the association members have agreed to help us initially without having to ask for money up front.  Of course, funding is important in our completing the project, and the lack of it has become a real problem.  This is why you don't find women producers, because it is a very hard job going around raising money to make films.

We are determined and so far we have gotten a lot of goodwill from individuals, from different organizations, like the UNDP (the United Nations Development Program)—they have agreed to do the posters for us.  We have some aerial shots and the AMREV has agreed to give its airplanes.  So, what we need to do is to get enough money, though we have a little, to pay the actors and others, as well as the out-of-pocket expenses.  It is a struggle but we are determined.

As you stated, there are not a lot of filmmakers in general nor women filmmakers or film producers in Kenya.  Would you say that you are one of the few woman film producers?  What role do you play in this field?

Yes, well, as I told you it is not an easy task. We have problems getting money.  Another trend that you are finding is that, because filmmaking is very expensive, there are many people who are only working in video.  However, we feel that film is a very effective way of reaching out to people.  It is a very, very powerful way to reach the public and we do feel that it is important as well.

If women are trained in filmmaking and are able to do films about themselves, as well as the nation, and the country in general, it is an efficient way to portray the woman positively.  I think we as women are in a position to fill that need and to be able to express it much better than perhaps men would.  Although I must say, I am impressed with some of the men who have been interested in portraying the woman positively.

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