Made by writer/director Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya’s first science fiction film to hit Sundance, Pumzi, takes place “thirty-five years after World War III, the “Water War,” and tells the story of a woman from East Africa who flees an enclosed community in hopes of once again restoring life outside its walls. The film which screened last month at the Sundance Film Festival was made with grant money from Focus Features’ Africa First short film program, the Goethe Institut, and the Changamoto arts fund, and was part of the festival’s New African Cinema program.
Like recent standouts District 9 and Sleep Dealer, the short film taps into Third World realities and spins them forward for dramatic effect. But to produce Pumzi, Kahiu looked to the past, as well as the future. She researched classic 1950s films to create her movie’s futuristic sets, comparing the processes of matte painting and rear-screen projection with indigenous African artwork. “We already have a tradition of tapestries and functional art and things like that, that loan a backdrop for films,” Kahiu said.
With Focus Features’ Ditrict 9 now considered a global box office success and it’s recent Academy Award nomination, look out for more funding to be injected into Africa-inspired films. As Ms. Kahiu proves, the whole continent – not just South Africa – has endless stories to tell and Africans are dreaming up creative ways to tell them.
Watch the Pumzi trailer below:
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