Ni Sisi, A Powerful Film with An Enlightening Message

NEW KENYAN FILM HAS POWERFUL AND URGENT MESSAGE By Margaretta wa Gacheru Published in Zuqka in Daily Nation March 15, 2013 Ni Sisi is the sort of must-see movie that every Kenyan ought to watch.Normally, I am not so judgmental or bossy, but in this case, there’s no time to beat around the bush. The March 4th General Elections is over but the aftermath is still fraught with unresolved issues associated with everything from IEBC’s credibility to whether there will be a run-off to the impending decision by the Supreme Court. So it is still the case that much is at stake related to the way these issues are resolved. From what we saw during that last election and all the emotion-wrought violence that ensued—some spontaneous, some premeditated, it was clearly un-necessary and also uncharacteristic of-Kenyans who by nature are not killers, gangsters or thugs. That is just one of the messages that comes through loud and clear in Ni Sisi, the latest S.A.F.E. production currently being screened at Prestige Plaza and the Village Market as well as in Mombasa and Kisumu. The original story was devised and performedlive by a brilliant bunch of passionate Kenyan actors who understood the power of performance and the need to use it to rouse public awareness quickly. Doing so in daring style, the cast, assisted by S.A.F.E.’s founder-director Nick Reding, told a story filled first with a rich mixture of humor, laughter and the bittersweet experience of a young girl named Roxana (Jacky Vike) who just lost her mother, who’d been raped during the 2007-8 post-election violence, leaving her so traumatized, she commited suicide. Ni Sisi starts in the present-day but quickly reflects back on the devastating effects of that period when some Kenyans lost control and allowed malicious animal instincts to take charge of their bodies and minds. But part of the genius of the screenplay, drafted by Reding and based wholly on the devised live performances, is that it exposes what else was at play in those darkened days when some Kenyans forgot their humanity and turned into mobsters and monsters. What’s so ingeniously exposed in Ni Sisi is just how flagrantly ordinary Kenyans were used and manipulated by self-serving politicians to elicit fear among the people, using racial and tribal stereotypes, rumor-mongering and plenty of cash to cause havoc that would not just kill people’s morale but kill them physically as well. Ni Sisi does an amazing job of exposing thereal enemies of peace, freedom, social justice and democracy.They are embodies in the character of Mzito (Peter King), a shopkeeper who’s so hungry for power that he’s intent on becoming a member of Parliament sothat he too can take his turn to ‘eat’ the national cake. Mzito is a mean-spirited, small-minded and manipulative man who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of kindness, as we quickly see by the cruel way he treats his shop worker Tall (Godfrey Ojiambo) and also Roxana who he tries to seduce. Fortunately, he fails since this girl is too wise to be tricked by a lusty bugger who could have easily raped her in the same careless and ugly style as her mother had been during the 2008 chaos. But Mzito is ready to win the election by any means necessary. His first weapon is the rumor which he cleverly plants, using a few village people who he pays as well as his witchy wife who’s as much of a pretender as he is. Next, he uses seduction and emotional manipulation of Pastor Maria (TrizahMusymby), one of the three village women (Edna Daisy as Zippy, Mercy Wanjiru as Nene) who start off in the film as bosom buddies; their friendship tested once Mzito turns Maria upside down. I won’t give the story away as it’s filled with suspense that I wouldn’t want to spoil for audiences. But I will say the story’s delightful narrator Jabali (Joseph KimaniWairimu, who also starred as Mwas in Nairobi Half Life) is just as clever and insightful as Roxana, so they devise strategies to expose Mzito who almost succeeds in twisting the minds of his unsuspecting constituents. It is that element of manipulation of the innocent by the power hungry politician that resounds in Ni Sisi. But it’s also got anotherimportant message which is that Kenyans need never be duped again into becoming either destroyers or docile sheep who are just too easily taken in by the tools of tribalism, the tactics of ‘divide and rule’ or the tendency to believe evil men can succeed in the end. Thanks to generous support ofHivos, Safaricom, the Minority Rights Group,and the Australian High Commission as well as the hard work put in by an outstanding cast and crew of Kenyans, (mostly members of the two theatre groups – S.A.F.E. Ghetto from Nairobi and S.A.F.E. Kwani from Mombasa), the producers, KamauwaNdungu, KrysteenSavane, and Nick Reding created a glorious film.

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