Germany / 1995
82 min. / 35 mm / Original version with English subtitles
Watching Wanjiru Kinyanjui's feature film DER KAMPF UM DEN HEILIGEN BAUM, one would never guess that it was the director’s graduation project from the DFFB. It displays a wit and self-assurance rarely seen in student films. It was also shot far from Berlin, in a Kenyan village with Kenyan actors. The film was based on a short story by the best-selling author Barbara Kimenye. The dialogue alternates between English and Kiswahili, and the soundtrack is by a Senegalese musician called Mamadou Mbaye.
Protagonist Mumbi leaves Nairobi and her abusive husband for her ancestral village. There she clashes with a Christian women's group, whose members are determined to eradicate every last trace of pre-colonial beliefs. They are particularly vexed by a magnificent tree, because the villagers believe it possesses supernatural powers. A cunning mayor and an amorous tailor leap to Mumbi's defence, and in the end it is ants that engineer what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the doyen of Kenyan literature, once referred to as "Decolonising the Mind". (Cristina Nord)
Production Kristov Brändli. Production companies Birne-Filmproduktion (Berlin, Germany), Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB) (Berlin, Germany), Flamingo Film (Paris, France), Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) (Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany), Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) (Köln, Germany). Director Wanjiru Kinyanjui. Written by Wanjiru Kinyanjui based on a short story by Barbara Kimenye. Cinematography François Kotlarski. Editing Eva López Echegoyen. Music Mamadou Mbaye. Sound Hans-Joachim Beckmann. With Margaret Nyacheo, Catherine Kariuki, Roslynn Kimani, Titi Wainaina, Ben Ateku, Tirus Gathwe, Jeff Munene, Catherine Njoki, Amina Khamisi, Pauline Njoroge.
Wanjiru Kinyanjui, born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1958, she first studied German and English literature and then film directing. Wanjiru Kinyanjui works as a writer, screenwriter and director and teaches film production at Kenyatta University.
Films: 1987:...wenn ein Fremder dazu kommt... (co-directed by Yvonne Gaerber, 18 min.). 1988: A Lover & Killer of Colour (10 min.). 1991: African Time (22 min.). 1992: Black in the Western World (23 min.). 1993: Vitico, eine lebende Legende (15 min.). 1995: Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum / The Battle of the Sacred Tree. 1997: Zawadi ya Daudi (83 min.). 2007: Bahati (40 min.), Manga in America (57 min.). 2009: Africa Is A Woman’s Name (30 min.).