IMG_0195 (1)With Kenya athletes emerging top for the first time in the IAAF World Championships this year, there couldn’t have been a better time to make a film on the runners. A new film titled, Chep, is already in the works. The film has been directed and written by Jinna Mutune. She also directed and produced the 2012 film ‘Leo’, a story about a young Maasai boy with dreams of becoming a superhero.

Jinna says of her new project: “Chep is a film covering the journey of a female athlete in her effort to become a world marathoner. The film explores themes like redemption, love, power and family.”

Set in the 1970s, the fictional drama will capture the history of Kenyan running, from the early beginnings of the long distance running supremacy. Being a time when female runners were almost unheard of, a young aspiring runner Chebet — the lead character of the film — triumphs over prejudice and hardship to challenge a tough environment and become a female world marathoner.

Jinna says: “I needed the 1970s time period because I love pan-African culture and I’ve noted that African films aren’t themed as much. It also allows me to experiment with different sets, fashion and style.”

While the film is set to capture Kenya’s rich culture before the dilution that came with modernisation, its score celebrates the woman and the impact she is making in the society today.

EVERYTHING IN PLACE

‘Ebu Njoo’, featuring Sauti Sol, composed by Jaaz Odongo and written by Fena Gitu, has already been released as a “tactic of using music to introduce the film to the public.”

Jinna says: “The song’s message applauds men in the society, who see women for more than just housewives or cooks. However, there is nothing wrong with those who see women differently — we are just challenging stereotypes in a holistic manner without being too direct. “Additional to cutting across to a global audience in a poetic way, the song’s message also has a CSR campaign agenda supporting maternal health.”

The film is currently in its first phase of production and should be launched early next year. Jinna has developed the script with the expert help of a team of African writers, including Samba Yonga, Kaizer Mastumunye and Rodgers Gold. She confirms that she has locked down her main cast members and scouted film locations, including Iten and Iveti Hills in Machakos County. She will also be collaborating with various professionals in the Kenyan and Hollywood film industry in the production.

‘Chep’ is a story about the African woman, courage, and the power of a dream. The film will capture the rich cultural heritage of Kenyan communities while telling a riveting story of how Chebet triumphs over cultural norms. She must eventually fight and overcome her own fears to find her voice.

As audiences wait on ‘Chep’ — what promises to be yet another unique Kenyan film — Jinna concludes: “Kenya’s film industry is sprouting and at a better place.

There is a lot of talent and people are starting to see the commercial viability. Ripple effects include Kenyan actress Lupita Nyongo’s Oscar win, and freedom of speech. All these things make me hopeful.

“However, I am not doing art for art’s sake, it has to make money sense, this is a business. I am producing Chep for the mainstream market and aiming for Cannes Festival among box office and mass distribution.”

‘Chep’ will be released in May next year.

IN SUMMARY

  • ‘Chep’ is a story about the African woman, courage, and the power of a dream. The film will capture the rich cultural heritage of Kenyan communities while telling a riveting story of how Chebet triumphs over cultural norms. She must eventually fight and overcome her own fears to find her voice.
  • Set in the 1970s, the fictional drama will capture the history of Kenyan running, from the early beginnings of the long distance running supremacy.
  • Being a time when female runners were almost unheard of, a young aspiring runner Chebet — the lead character of the film — triumphs over prejudice and hardship to challenge a tough environment and become a female world marathoner.

BONUS: This article was originally written for Daily Nation, and edited by my amazing Editor of Saturday Nation Arts & Culture. It was also published by Nation Online.

You might also like my article on the annual International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR): Project takes African film to the world published by Daily Nation.

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