“We are so used to seeing other people on our screens, so I really hope this translates into a celebration of who we are, a celebration of our culture, our languages, and our personalities. I know it’s just a scratching of the surface of the stories we tell about ourselves,” Vincent Mbaya, Director.
Country Queen! The first original Kenyan series on Netflix. What a great stride in the country’s film industry! The series centers on the character of Akisa Musyoka, an ambitious Nairobi event planner, who pushes the boundaries of society’s expectations of women.
The masterpiece was filmed in Nairobi, Muranga, and Machakos counties and was directed by Vincent Mbaya, Tosh Gitonga and Brian Munene.
Shot in English, Swahili, and a mix of other local languages, the series features the lives of ordinary Kenyans fighting against corporate power, corruption, and land grabs.
This comes even when the country’s film industry has been subject to serious financial constraints in the funding of various film projects, and Country Queen has not been an exception either. In fact, it took more than five years to get it done, with years spent looking for investors. They managed, against all odds. It premiered yesterday on the platform and is now available for streaming.
From left, Kamau Wa Ndung’u, producer of Country Queen; Melissa Kiplagat (who plays the lead character, Akisa); Nyokabi Macharia (Ivy) and Mumbi Kaigwa (Esther). Photograph: Netflix
But this is not the only challenge facing the industry. Several films have been banned in the past, purported to have immoral content. Many filmmakers in the country have found this a huge challenge since the bans stifle stories that should be in the public domain. They say that such bans perpetuate a certain conservative view among the public about what is allowed and not allowed – in film and in society, yet the Kenyan constitution protects artistic freedom.
However, streaming platforms such as Netflix, are revolutionary. Just a few months ago, the Kenyan Ministry of ICT, Innovation & Youth Affairs, and Netflix signed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding to jointly deliver efforts to strengthen the country’s creative industry and support the development of the next generation of storytellers. The scope of cooperation under the MoU - which is the first of its kind for Netflix in Africa - focuses on skills & capacity development, creative sector infrastructure development, marketing and media spend, digital consumer protection, and local content investment.
Creators are now capitalizing on their ability to distribute and monetize content using online platforms, allowing a new generation to make a living in the sector and bypass the industry’s traditional “gatekeepers”.
If you are looking for something to unwind your week over, Country Queen got you!