Award Winner Interview: Ng’endo Mukii

The first in our series of 2017 Award Winner interviews sees us reconnect with artist/filmmaker Ng'endo Mukii. Ng'endo is the first ever filmmaker to win our new Immersive Encounters Grand Prix Award for her VR short, Nairobi Berries. The Immersive Encounters jury were stunned by Ng'endo's ability to completely embody the medium within this piece. Here, she talks dream-like spaces, Nairobi as a source of inspiration, and getting to grips with VR.








Ng’endo Mukii                            Carol Kariuku                          Eddy Sibwor

Congratulations on your 2017 Encounters Festival win, Ng’endo! How does it feel?

Thanks! I was super happy to receive the news of Nairobi Berries’s win. I had not even considered the possibility. A friend of mine who was at the festival messaged me during the awards ceremony.

The last time I was at a festival looking at VR and 360 projects, I remember feeling so overwhelmed and wondering “How will we ever catch up?” as I reflected on the massive disparity in opportunity for filmmakers from diverse backgrounds to access and keep up with technological advancements. The New Dimensions grant I received from Electric South to make Nairobi Berries, specifically seeks to address these disparities and give artists on the continent (Africa) the opportunity to participate in this medium as it unfolds further and further. So, it really is encouraging to know that my little project made on a small grant, with a couple Kodak Pix Pros and a very unwilling 2011 Mac Book Pro, could win an award…. I’m very honoured to receive this award, especially at Encounters, which was one of the very first festivals to screen any of my work!

Nairobi_Berries_1How does Nairobi influence or inspire you creatively?

I think we move a lot in patterns. Everybody does, but the population density and the congestion of our roads heavily underlines this beehive-anthill patterned movement that we have here. When we drive, when we walk, when we talk, our bodies weave around each other. The ebb and flow of the city affects how and when we interact, we learn to socially slip around each other, and through backstreets to avoid traffic. We’re always twisting and turning. Culturally and creatively, I feel we do these things as well. Specifically in Nairobi Berries, I think the poetry and imagery I created reflect this.

Our jury members for the Immersive Encounters strand were struck by how your film was a total ‘embodiment of the VR medium and how it could only work in VR’. Do you agree?

Nairobi_Berries_2I was struck by the interpretation and response the jury had to Nairobi Berries. When I was story-boarding the film, my main concern was to use the space to create a dream-like state and to make the audience occupy the space with the feeling that this created world is constantly happening around them. I wanted it to feel like a waking dream. And I wanted the choreography to feed into this swooping-sweeping sensation you can have when dreaming, as you move from one part of your dream to another: fluidly and without warning. I tried to think of ways to use this 360 space, without creating a gimmick. As I started testing out adding animation to the scenes using Mettle, I think the effect and use of the space continued to grow. I remember fiddling with SkyBox Converter with these butterflies I had animated, and testing the results on my Google cardboard, and the butterflies flew around me. It’s very strange because, I had understood what I was doing up until that point, but in that ‘butterfly moment’ in post-production, something shifted in my perception of the 360 space.

A phrase that has been used to explain feeling whilst viewing your film is ‘being entirely in the moment’. Did you have this in mind as a creator whilst directing Nairobi Berries? 

I think that comes from trying to build the dreamscape…. Feeling ‘as if you’re there,’ but in a dream.

What, or who, would you consider to be your main influences as a filmmaker?

Just as an artist-human, not specifically as a filmmaker, also at this moment in time (as things keep shifting) Nnedi Okorafor, Wangeci Mutu, Laura Mvula, Högabo Eden. They’re brilliant.

What’s next for you Ng’endo? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

I’m always working on projects, short and … a bit less short. I prefer to mention them when they are more developed. I hope they’re super! Thanks!

Watch a trailer for Nairobi Berries below

Nairobi Berries trailer from Ng’endo Mukii on Vimeo.

Words Isabella Coombes