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Kenji Gathecha is back with a loud whistle

By Stevens Muendo | July 31st 2020
Kenji Gachecha directing Joe Kinyua (Marshall Owino). [File, Standard]

After a short hiatus, acclaimed Kenyan film director Kenji Gathecha is back with a ground-breaking action movie, a rare genre hardly produced in Kenya.

Known for his love for personal narratives, the brains behind MNet Maisha’s drama series’ Hullabaloo, Sue na Johnnie and ‘Ma’ Empress has changed faces and gone bold into action in his new film ‘The Whistle Blower’.

The film premiers internationally this weekend after its teasers went online late last year, mainly to get an entry into the Kalasha Awards.

“I am a multifaceted personality who considers himself a never-ending student of music and film,” Gathecha said.

The director is celebrated for his contribution in some of Africa’s biggest formats, among them three seasons of Coke Studio Africa, Tusker Project Fame (Season 4 and 5) and instalments on MNet’s Maisha Magic East.

“Whistleblowing happens often but the men and women brave enough to go through with it have to seek asylum, disappear from the face of the earth or remain in their country and face tribulations from their assailants. The film is a story of their sacrifices,” Gathecha said.

In the thriller, an ex-army general turned analyst is attacked by gunmen at his wife’s café for exposing corrupt leaders.

The hunter becomes the hunted as the former official applies his training to take the gunmen out and save his family. Its blood, sweat and tears.

Marshall Owino, the ex-army man, finds incriminating information against the pharmaceutical company he works for. Though life as he knew it would never be the same again, he chooses to take the risky route; stay on and fight. It is a compelling story that reveals grand corruption, a vice Kenya has been battling for years.

This grand pharmaceutical company that manufactures ARV medicine is not what it looks like. Marshall finds out that the actual cost of manufacturing and the price that the government bought the drug at, was heavily marked up to fatten the accounts of government officers who own the company.

As a whistle-blower, Marshall knows his life is in danger as an elite hit squad hunts him down. He lays a trap on his pursuers in action-packed embroilment that spares no one in the web.

Watching the trailer, the stunts men remind you of the superhero character Makmende who enjoyed a popular resurgence after adoption by Kenya’s top boy-band Just-a-Band. It evokes the fascinating memories of Cobra Squad, the action TV series that captured the region’s attention after it premiered in 2007. The Whistle Blower is the Kenyan fashion of Rambo, Matrix and Rush Hour… if you like.

“We actually shot this film on a very low budget but managed to squeeze value from every opportunity we got. We shot it in 2018 and did the post-production last year,” says Beatrice Wang’ondu aka Bea, the producer behind the film.

“The Whistle Blower is premised on three key themes; that we are never really in control of life; that media as an organ has been used as pawns by crooked politicians, and; lastly, that family values must give separately and together,” Gathecha said.

One of the most ingenious actors in the movie is Lwanda Jawal, the famous stunts master in Sense 8, The First Grader and Rafiki. He has just returned from Morocco where he worked on a feature film currently in post-production. Actor Abel Mutua’s child Stephanie is also in the film. 

“The film had a theatrical release in Nairobi. Due to Covid-19, we couldn’t do much to promote it internationally. The film has now found a home at Vumi Central,” Wang’ondu said.

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