The DW Akademie-supported Kenyan drama series will premiere on the streaming platform on July 15, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Corruption, urban-rural divides, women's roles in society — these are typical themes for DW Akademie. Yet this time, the story will appear on the small screen. Over the past five years, the organization has supported a group of talented filmmakers as they created "Country Queen", the first of its kind on Netflix for Kenya and the region.
The series focuses around Akisa, a woman who moved far from her village to leave her past behind and start a new life in Nairobi. Yet when she is compelled to return home to visit her ailing father, she finds that an exploitative mining company has discovered gold near her childhood village. Caught between worlds, she must confront her past and decide what is truly important.
"Our country is at a critical transitional stage politically, socially and economicially," said director Vincent Mbaya. "The story of 'Country Queen' is timely and important."
The project had its inception in 2017, when Kenyan filmmakers initially conceived and began developing the story at a workshop hosted by Good Karma Fiction, supported by DW Akademie. It was from this initial meeting that "Country Queen" began to take shape. A year later, the BMZ went on to fund the pilot, which was executive produced by Good Karma Fiction.
During development and filming, the project supported capacity-building by leading trainings at all levels of filmmaking, from acting and directing, to camera and makeup.
"Thanks to 'Country Queen', there are significantly more highly professional players in the Kenyan TV and film industry," said producer Ravi Karmalker.
The professional level of their work on the pilot also drew interest from Netflix, who chose to co-produce and distribute the series, accomplishing the second aspect of the project's goal, to increase visibility of Kenya’s creative sector.
Supporting the development and production of a series of this scale is a relatively novel approach for DW Akademie, but is in line with the organization's aims of promoting media and media makers throughout the region.
"We want to promote authentic African stories that invite us to change perspectives and to think outside the box. The African creative sector plays a crucial role in promoting freedom of expression on the continent," said Natascha Schwanke, Director of Media Development.
The limited world release is on July 15, excluding Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. For those countries, there will be a second release on Arte in October.
The DW Akademie film industries team supports and implements projects that aim to strengthen the economic systems of film industries in the Global South and to contribute to freedom of expression. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), DW Akademie professionalizes and qualifies filmmakers in the creation, production and distribution of films and series.