One of the thoughts that dominated my mind while watching Netflix’s Sense8 (the sci-fi TV series that was partly shot in Kenya) was how much more engaging it could have been had our very own fight scene specialist Muchiri Mentor had been involved in it one way or another. There’s no denying that he would have been a great casting choice, especially for the Nairobi fight scenes. The car and motorcycle chase scene off the Thika Superhighway in episode 11, in particular, reminded me of Muchiri’s own short film, Nairobism.
However, Muchiri Mentor has been involved in another equally interesting project called Afro Kung Fu. Written, directed and produced by filmmaker Dennis Muiruri, Afro Kung Fu is a seven minute, semi-silent and action packed martial arts film. The film revolves around Muchiri Mentor as our resident kung fu expert, going about his daily jog and exercise routine when he stumbles upon three local bullies with a knack for mugging passers-by. This encounter at an open playground and the ensuing battle between the bullies and Mentor is the main focus of the film.
As expected of Muchiri Mentor, the fight scenes are well-built and choreographed in a truly kung fu film format in which the hero as the underdog first proves himself by facing off with the underlings before the final battle against the “boss”. Despite the low production values and a few oversights in continuity, the resourceful camera work of Dennis Muiruri does not go unnoticed. He utilizes the location to his advantage and transforms the the playground into a stage and the fight into something like a slow dance.
The film is also a sonic treat. Firstly, the use of war drums as the entire soundtrack and to precisely match the fight scenes to the drums was an awesome editing decision that makes the film much more enjoyable. Secondly, every kick and punch has its own corresponding sound, giving you an idea of the impact of the blow, but not in the usual way you’d see in a standard film. The sonic cues here are given much more emphasis in a way that makes the kicks and blows sound like what you’d hear when playing a video game.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All in all, Afro Kung Fu is a very watchable and very entertaining short film. Its story line goes straight to the point, allocating more time to showcase its crown jewels – the fight scenes. It whets the appetite for something more – perhaps a full-length film or a mini-series with better production values. Either way, this is can still be said to be a small coup by Muchiri Mentor and Dennis Muiruri. Local film and/or TV certainly needs more of this stuff.