06-03-2023 by Freddie del Curatolo
A Kenyan debut director's film takes the podium at the most prestigious African film festival.
The jury of the Fespaco (Pan-African Film & TV Festival) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, awarded the Bronze Stallion to "Shimoni," a feature film directed by Angela Wamai.
The award, in the 2023 edition that saw the triumph of the Tunisian thriller "Ashkal" by Youssef Chebbi, once again certifies the growth of Kenyan cinema, which moreover in the pre-pandemic years had already landed in important Western kermesses such as the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin Bear.
"Shimoni" tells the story of a man in conflict with his environment and at war with his inner demons. After being released from prison, Geoffrey (played by actor Justin Mirichii) is sent to the Kenyan village where he grew up. A former English teacher, he is now forced to reorient his life in the community he left behind, performing manual labor that is foreign to him. Mirichii offers a moving portrayal of this tormented man, caught between the vulnerability of the victim and the guilt of the perpetrator.
According to specialized critics, "Shimoni" is a touching meditation on the lasting consequences of unspoken trauma. The director relies on balanced visual exposition and the symbolic charge of some crucial details to construct a slow-burn narrative that is not without mystery -- while subtly addressing issues of gender roles, religion, tradition and modernity, community and isolation, and the lack of adequate support systems for the alienated individual.
The Kenyan film also participated in the Rotterdam International Film Festival, which presented it as a work that "addresses the deep and inescapable pain of open wounds that, unable to find expression and recognition, are condemned to be distorted and recreated. Moderation becomes the filmmaker's best ally and an ethical decision in tune with the issues raised by the film."
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