Kenyan filmmaker invited to join ranks of Oscar voters_00015604.jpg
Kenyan filmmaker joins ranks of Oscar voters
05:47 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Judy Kibinge describes the African film scene as "buzzing"

She credits Docubox, the film fund she founded, as the reason she came to the Academy's attention

CNN  — 

Filmmaker Judy Kibinge has been hand-picked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to join the ranks of voting members.

She follows in the footsteps of fellow Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o, who joined Hollywood’s most prestigious club after winning an Oscar three years ago.

Kibinge hasn’t won an Oscar (yet). She was one of 774 new members invited to join the Academy’s “Class of 2017” as the organization takes steps to recover from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and diversify its predominantly white, male membership.

“I was really surprised, really taken aback” Kibinge said upon learning the news, describing it as “something really special.”

“I think it shows the world is really beginning to question the content they watch. They’re beginning to want films and documentaries and features that reflect the diversity in the world,” she said.

Kibinge’s invitation to the Academy is a validation of African talent on the world stage, something she said is “buzzing” right now.

“There are people enabled to do things by just the beauty of having mobile phones and to create content that travels.

“Younger Africans and Kenyans are this eclectic mix of a new confidence about being African mixed with not feeling like you have to completely reject things of the West. Really realizing, hey we’re on the continent, we’re here to stay and we can create things we can relate to.”

Kibinge didn’t start in film. Straight out of college she began a career in advertising and then one day she decided to pack it all in so she could see her own stories come to life on the big screen. Since then, she’s racked up director, writer and producer credits on some 10 films, including “Something Necessary,” “Project daddy” and “Dangerous Affair.”

She also founded Docubox, a Nairobi-based film fund that provides grants and support for African filmmakers. She credits the work coming out of Docubox as the reason she came to the Academy’s attention.

“A few years ago after making a few different feature films of my own, I really began to notice, to really notice how difficult it was to raise funding, how difficult it was to find a sense of community amongst filmmakers back home in Kenya. By founding and starting Docubox I was able, with my colleagues, to raise funding first of all, make a call and in quite a curated process, select a number of independent documentary filmmakers who over the past four years have been doing a lot of grueling work making these incredible films that are going to be seen come the beginning of the end of this year.”

While Docubox primarily supports independent documentary filmmakers from Kenya, it has also supported filmmakers from across the continent, including Tanzania and Uganda. Docubox also collaborated with “docsociety” to host a film competition called “Good Pitch,” helping filmmakers from farther afield, including South Africa and one from Sierra Leone.

Although Africa is a huge continent, boasting many diverse countries and languages, Kibinge cites some common themes among the pitches she receives.

“Often many filmmakers will want to tackle something that has to do with corruption. Many want to touch upon things that are happening to them, issues of drug taking and so on. Others want to express themselves as musicians and to accept themselves as individuals.”

Her advice to up and coming filmmakers?

“Take notice of the new wave of filmmaking coming out of the continent” she says, referring to the more accessible ways of creating content, and “start writing stories.”

“It’s one of the most remarkable times to be African” she added.

Kibinge will be one of the Academy judges for the categories of documentary, international features and animation, the results of which we’ll all find out on the much anticipated Oscars night early next year.