Last week, Kenyans were happy to learn that one of their celebrated filmmakers, Judy Kibinge, had been hand-picked to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is known for its annual awards commonly referred to as The “Oscars”.
With this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Kibinge now joins the ranks of Oscar’s judges and goes a step closer to joining fellow Kenyan and Hollywood superstar Lupita Nyong’o. Her invitation to the Academy points to the global recognition of African talent.
But who exactly is Judy Kibinge?
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Well, Judy Kibinge is an award-winning Kenyan-born filmmaker and writer known for her ability to produce thought-provoking films that are mainly centered on social taboos, instability in developing countries, as well as romantic comedy.
Kibinge was born in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in 1967 before her family moved to the U.S. in 1969. They stayed in America for five years and then returned to Kenya, where she joined Kenya High School in Nairobi.
While in America, at the age of seven, Kibinge won a children’s writing competition, which appears to have shaped her career in the film industry.
She later moved to the U.K. where she first joined Malvern Girls College for her post-secondary education and later enrolled in Art College in Birmingham. From there, the celebrated filmmaker proceeded to join Manchester Polytechnic, where she graduated with a diploma in Design for Communication Media.
Kibinge has produced several award-winning films, including “Something Necessary”, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. The inspiring film is about a Kenyan woman struggling to pick up the pieces after the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
In 2008, she directed the popular documentary, Coming of Age, which won her an award at the African Movie Academy Awards for Best Short Documentary the following year.
Kibinge is also known for her film, Dangerous Affair, which was produced in 2002. The romantic film won her an award at the Zanzibar Film Festival in 2003.
Most of her films are about real life issues, ranging from political problems happening in Africa such as civil wars and colonialism to social issues such as hunger.
Apart from producing films, Kibinge is also gifted in creating award-winning commercials. In fact, she was the first black Creative Director at McCann Erickson Kenya, a global advertising company, where she worked for eight years.
She is also the founder of DocuBox, an organization that promotes East African filmmakers, as well as a founding member of Kwani Trust – a Kenyan-based literature networking group, focusing on creative writing.
So, does Kibinge’s appointment mean we will start seeing more representation of African films at the Oscars? We will just have to wait and see!