Category: Reel Reviews

Veve. Sweet Chew

veve posterFilm :        Veve

Genre:      Drama/Thriller

Director:  Simon Mukali

Writer:       Natasha Likimani

Cast:            Denzel Odhiambo, Liz Njagah,  Rugene Mike, Conrad Makeni.


Finally, the (in)famous miraa pick-ups from Meru made it to the silver screen! Another Kenyan legend immortalised by a film and this is one of the reasons I loved this film, and they did well too to begin the film with the scene of a miraa pick-up being loaded up. That scene with everyone shouting for the rope to be passed, the driver tapping his door impatiently and the vehicle being shook from side to side to accomodate more sacks, then the pick-up zooming off at great speed along the highway, the traffic police hurriedly rermoving their barriers from the road and tipping their hats as the truck flies by while the camera moves fast to accentuate the urgency was ingenious. It captured a part of Kenya that most only hear about and has been the root of a local simile – as fast as a miraa pick up, as well as set the tone for the rest of the film.

Veve is Sheng (slang) for Miraa/ Khat, a stimulant leaf stem grown in Meru County and very popular there. Veve, set mostly in Maua, Meru County is a story about the struggle for better lives, revenge, political anarchy and the power of love.

Denzel Odiambo as Amos in Veve. Photo courtesy of One Fine Day Films
Denzel Odiambo as Amos in Veve. Photo courtesy of One Fine Day Films

Denzel Odhiambo is Amos Munene, a ruthless corrupt and ambitious MP who is pretty used to having his way. His carrot-and-stick tactics on the veve farmers that gets him to buy produce at extremely low prices is not working and they are planning to start a union. This doesn’t seem like a good idea to Amos and he shifts tac to cruel intimidation to get the farmers to stay in line. His wife, Esther (Liz Njagah), discovers that he is cheating on her and there is an attempt on his life by Kenzo (Rugene Mike) over past injustices. The busines conflict with Wadu, who flies his Miraa abroad is also getting increasingly vilolent. Amos is, on all fronts, a beseiged man and he has only one person to trust, Sammy (Conrad Makeni), his right hand man, who owes him a lot after he saved him from the streets, but when everything hits the fan and Sammy has to choose between saving Amos or his chokoraa son, who will he choose?

Departing from the tradition of other One Fine Day/Ginger Inc films, a quite raw image has been employed in Veve maybe to give it a more ‘real’ look and the cinematography was way above par. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Esther finds out that Amos is cheating on her when she reads the text on his phone.

Liz Njagah as Esther in Veve. Photo courtesy of One Fine Day Films
Liz Njagah as Esther in Veve. Photo courtesy of One Fine Day Films

The play on the mirrors such that she is moving in one direction and coming out onthe opposite side then showing both her and her image captured articulately the torment and confusion that was going inside her at that moment. The actor that plays Kago, and the make-up crew that worked on him get my thumbs way up. That was so believable. The only unanswered questions were about Clint, who is he?, where does he come from?

If for no other reason, I love this film for the way it gives us Kenya- the people and the culture. Totally unforgetttable!

Veve will start screening on the 5th of September.






May The Real Captain Please Stand Up?

Film : Captain of Nakara captain

Genre : Comedy/Romance

Director : Bob Nyanja

Starring : Bernard Safari, Shirleen Wangari,

Charles Kiarie, Patrick Oketch Charles Bukeko




Set in the fictitious Kwetu, a typical African dictatorship, comes this film adapted from a 1956 German film The Captain of Kopenic  written by German dramatist Carl Zuckmayer about a true story that took place in 1906 of an ex-convict shoemaker who impersonates an army officer, holds a mayor of a small town to ransom with all the townspeople all too willing to obey his orders in respect of the uniform, in stark contrast to the treatment he was given before he donned the uniform.

This is Bob Nyanja’s third film after Malooned and Rugged Priest and was adapted into a  Kenyan story by veteran writer Cajetan Boy and his German counterpart Martin Thau. It starts as petty criminals Muntu (Bernard Safari, Beba Beba)  and his buddy Sunday (Charles Kiarie, AGT- All Girls Together) are released from the Nakara State Prison prison by the act of a presidential pardon in celebration of the president’s birthday. While celebrating their release at a pub, Muntu is caught up in a love-at-first-sight situation with Muna (Shirleen Wangari, Shish of Tahidi High) the daughter of a preacher of a sect that fights ‘dark forces’ with wooden swords, and also gets a brush with the powerful and name-dropping violent drunkard that is the Captain (Patrick Oketch, Charlie of Mother-in-law).CaptainOfNakara_02

Muntu is determined to lead a straight life and resists any of Sunday’s efforts to lure him back into crime but he is keeping his rotten past a secret from Muna for the fear that it might end their relationship. He lies to her that he is a successful businessman back in the capital city and to sustain this statement he has to cover it with lie after lie as their wedding fast approaches. At the same time he is trying to start a hawking business in the capital trying to turn his lie into a reality before Muna finds out but bureaucracy and corruption that starts from the top to the gutters stands in his way.

Most of the cast are familiar faces and include veteran actor Charles Bukeko (Papa Shirandula) as the drunk and lonely widower General Lumumba, and fellow long time actress Lucy Wangui (judge in Vioja Mahakamani) who epitomizes the rot in government offices when a person waits for days for her signature and a stamp on his documents while she stays in her office knitting a sweater. With a narrator at the opening that might give fans of The Twilight Zone  a sense of deja vu, this story starts with a style straight from a narrative in the schools drama festivals with a narrator in colobus monkey costume giving the background to the story while a marching band provides background music, this narrative style is also applied at the end and should be credited as one of the features that gives this adaptation it’s Kenyan touch. Add to this the rob-cladding religious sect with a long , weird name and remove the drunk army chiefs and you Shirleenare in Kenya.

The pressure to turn this into an authentic Kenyan picture must have gotten to the creators, though, leading to a few inconsistencies. How, in a movie set in the early 70s and in the church of a sect that has all the markings of Legio Maria, they arrived at Jero Mash’s JC Anabamba as an appropriate song choice in the service beats all logic. General Lumumba drives his car very competently and parks it neatly yet when when he gets out of it he can barely manage to stand or keep his eyes open. Moreover, the lead actor struggles with English, unintentionally, and can’t seem to be consistent with his drunken stagger when marching in general Lumumba’s house, here one moment , gone the next. Muntu’s , the Captain’s and Lumumba’s drunken acts are all terribly cliche.

The flaws not withstanding, this is a pretty decent Kenyan film though the Mzungu hand in it is visible in the cliche brownish colouring western filmmakers have often relied on when making films in Africa to give the continent an overall ‘dusty’ look. The camera work by Helmut is superb and I particularly love the bird’s-eye-view shot at the bar scene of the Captain, in his military uniform, walking out after beating up Muntu and Waguyu the prostitute leaving them sprawled on the floor, powerless, crushed.  Though it is a comedy, the best way to enjoy this film is to watch it not expecting a laugh fest.

L-R Charles Bukeko, Mwaniki Magere of Kenya Film Commission, Cajetan Boy and Bob Nyanja
L-R Charles Bukeko, Mwaniki Magere of Kenya Film Commission, Cajetan Boy and Bob Nyanja