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Another Kenyan scores a first with Oscar Awards

By Tonny Mochama | July 2nd 2017
Kenyan film-maker Judy Kibinge has been invited to join the Oscar Academy. [Photo: Courtesy]

Kenyan film-maker Judy Kibinge was just ‘chilling’ (in her words) in Chebeaugue Island in Maine, USA, on the invite of her friend Nicola Shepherd when she received the news.

She had just been invited to join the Oscar Academy, which is of course the elite institution that chooses which films to give the gong to for the annual Oscar Academy Awards; which are, of course, the most prestigious film awards in the world.

Upon receiving this great news, Ms Kibinge was floored.

‘Whoa!’ she posted on her Facebook page: ‘Blink! Blink! What a list. Honoured!’

Everybody knows the story of Lupita Nyong’o, the first and only Kenyan to win an Oscar as best supporting actress in the 2013 film 12 Years A Slave.

Since then, Lupita has played an air hostess in the 2014 film Non Stop, a space pirate in the 2015 Star Wars film and got nominated for a Tony Award for best Broadway actress for a play called Eclipsed last year.

But a decade before Lupita broke through in her debut film role to win an Oscar, Kibinge was just joining the film directing game (with Dangerous Affair in 2002), having quit her job as McCann Erickson’s Creative Director. She had been at McCann Erickson for eight years and made many award-winning commercials.

The next ten years would see Kibinge mostly direct, sometimes produce, and once or twice script a number of films – starting with The Aftermath (written by the reclusive Andia Kisia) in 2003, on to the popular Project Daddy, then Bless This Land, A Voice in the Dark, then coming of age with Coming of Age in 2008, Peace Wanted Alive, then the great Killer Necklace (that won Kibinge a Kalasha Award in 2010), Tinga Tinga Tales the next year and in 2013, Something Necessary that was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Kibinge was also drained, in energy and pocket, by Wagalla – the Story of a Massacre a couple of years ago, then made Headlines in History as well as getting money from The Ford Foundation to found DocuBox.

Yet her prestigious first as an Oscar Academy member, one of 774 people invited to join the club this year, would not have been possible if not for all the noise black Hollywood elites like Jada-Pinkett Smith made a couple of years ago when no person of colour was nominated for an Oscar award (ironically, a year after Lupita had won the big award, beating Oprah Winfrey, the billionaires and brilliant actress).

#OscarSoWhite, the militant black film elite dabbed the ceremony, and boycotted it.

This led to the Who’s Who Gatekeepers of these Hollywood awards opening the gates of judging to more women, and more people of colour, and it is through this opening that the creative and dedicated and hard working Judy has joined The Oscar Academy.

Kibinge is currently a ‘mature student’ (50) in the university of Maine, in spite of having a family and career back home, and describes her weekdays as “running around, reading and swotting” late into the night.

But, aahhh, these delicious slices of time called weekends.

“I’m partying with the young’uns, travelling with the good people of Maine and seeing as much of this beautiful landscape as I can,” she says. Soon, she will have to be watching a whole year’s worth of films too. To decide who is next year’s Lupita.

And spending time this way, too, is valid.

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