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Wanuri Kahiu’s Feature Doc On Kenyan Afro-Electro-Pop Group Just A Band Gets Funding Boost

Wanuri Kahiu's Feature Doc On Kenyan Afro-Electro-Pop Group Just A Band Gets Funding Boost

I love this group! Like many others, my introduction to them was their 2009 album 82, although it didn’t seem to really gain international attention until the following year.

The video for the second single from the album – Ha-He – was probably what really did it, especially here in the USA. It was a spoof of blaxploitation films, featuring a protagonist named “Makmende“. The video went super-viral within a short time, and was labeled Kenya’s first viral internet meme, leading to features in the national media on the group on CNN, in The Wall Street Journal and others.

Pumzi director Wanuri Kahiu (along with Anjali Nayar) who shouldn’t be a stranger to S&A readers, is working on a feature documentary on the group, titled Just A Band: The Movie; she describes the project as…

… a kaleidoscopic portrait of four artistically eclectic twenty-somethings who form Kenya’s super nerdy Afro-electro-pop group Just A Band. The film follows them through projects and performances – from their out-of-control street parties in downtown Nairobi to the making of their blaxploitation music-mentry HA-HE, which became Kenya’s first Internet meme.

I’m sold. 

Announced last week, the project was one of 22 selected (from more than 2,000 applications, from filmmakers based in upwards of 100 countries) by Cinereach to be awarded over $500,000 in grants.

In addition to Cinereach’s backing, the film was also 1 of 6 selected by the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and Blue Ice Group last year, that received a total of $115,000 in development and production grants from the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund in its first round of disbursements.

The Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund is a $1-million production fund that provides financial support to independent filmmakers based in developing African countries, with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of social, cultural and political documentaries produced on the continent.

So the project is definitely moving ahead gradually, attracting financing and accolades along the way.

It’s on my alerts list, so I’ll continue to watch its progress, and report accordingly.

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen it, here’s the Ha-He blaxploitation-inspired music video that went viral 2 years ago, introducing Just A Band to international audiences:

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