American Film Institute hosts global premiere of Kenyan Film THE LETTER

By Ebimo Amungo

A Kenyan produced film, “The Letter” has had its Virtual World Premiere after it was aired online at an event hosted by the American Film Institute on June 21. The coronavirus pandemic upended earlier plans to show the film in cinemas. The Letter was produced over the course of six years by Maia Lekow and Christopher King, a husband and wife team who live in Nairobi, Kenya.

In a statement release by the duo on facebook, the duo had said

“We are pleased to invite you to the North American Premiere of THE LETTER AFI Docs  Available online in USA for 1 day only (24 hours) on Sunday 21st of June.”

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“We’d hoped to share this momentous occasion together in a cinema, but thankfully anyone in USA can watch the film online and help us celebrate this 6-year journey! Let this story of a 95-year-old Grandma with a fearless spirit help us come together as our elders are more vulnerable than ever.”

The screening included a Q&A with the filmmakers and protagonist Wilson Kamango, plus a live acoustic performance of the original soundtrack by Maia Lekow.

Watch directors Maia Lekow and Christopher King talk about the film:

The story of the film centers around Karisa who lives in Mombasa, one of the largest cities in Kenya. He gets a call and discovers he has a delicate family problem: his grandmother has been accused of being a witch.

Fearing for her life, he returns to his family’s village to figure out who wrote the letter accusing her of witchcraft and why. Using Karisa’s family as the jumping off point, we visit other elders accused of being witches and uncover the violence inflicted on them.

“This is a universal story of the increasing vulnerability of our elders and the indestructible power of women and the importance of family.”

– Maia Lekow, co-director of THE LETTER

What starts as an almost absurd family situation gets exposed to be a complicated human rights issue. Exploring unique modern cultural and religious clashes, Maia Lekow and Christopher King’s film is still able to achieve an intimacy and charm, that is, in many ways, magical.