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How Kenyan director Jinna Mutune fought stereotypes and failure to bring her feature film to life

by Julie Lyons.


For decades, African stories on the big screen revolved around images of starving babies with flies buzzing around them, of war and of white do-gooders parachuting into the “Dark Continent” to find themselves and save the world.

Jinna Mutune rejected those images.

The young Kenyan film director grew up in a middle-class family in Nairobi, and she saw her country in three dimensions: sparkling high-rises popping up all over Nairobi, the commercial center of East Africa, alongside massive slums such as Kibera that never seem to begin or end. There were gangsters working those slum alleys, but there were also hard-working men and women doing the best they could to raise their families.

Mutune decided to write and direct a dramatic feature film, “Leo,” that would set the record straight, telling an African story with dignity and depicting her country as it is — a diverse nation with a rapidly growing economy and the problems that go along with it.

After a tortuous five-year journey, “Leo” filled a Studio Movie Grill theater for a one-night screening in Dallas on March 20. Though Mutune, 31, couldn’t be there to savor this small taste of success in America — she wasn’t able to obtain a U.S. visa — she is determined to find an American audience for her film. She has another screening scheduled in San Francisco on June 18 and is working on setting up dates for three locales in Massachusetts, all via Gathr, which allows indie films to crowd-source screenings in traditional theaters.

Read the rest of this article from BizJournals.

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