Kenyan female filmmakers take the director’s seat

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Udada, meaning sisterhood in Swahili, seeks to showcase the talents of women in the film industry who are usually not awarded the same opportunities as men.

Matrid Munene – a director, producer and writer – says it’s about time that women got a platform to showcase their talents, tell their stories and openly speak about issues.

The Kenyatta University graduate says one of the toughest challenges in the industry has been overcoming sexism.

“As women it’s believed we can only be assistants, we can’t hold the big cameras.  We can also do costume, make up and wardrobe. And because of good planning skills we can be production assistants,” she says.

The lack of women behind the camera is an issue that is also faced in the USA – which boasts one of the top film industries in the world.

The Celluloid Ceiling, the glass ceiling referring to women in Hollywood, shows that in 2013 women made up 16 per cent of all the directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on top studio films. While only six per cent of directors working on the top 250 films last year were women.

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Another problem, for both men and women in Kenya’s film industry, is a lack of funding. Most filmmakers tend to fund and produce their own films on a very tight budget.  

“At some point it would affect quality because I might be compromised to call you as my friend to come and act in my film and you don’t even have a background in acting,” she said.

Munene hopes that the Udada film festival will serve as a comprehensive platform for women in the film industry to come together to discuss, exchange, and network in order to advance women in film.