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Tykwer comfy in Kenya

Shingle returns to shoot second film there, 'Nairobi Half Life'

DURBAN — Tom Tykwer’s ambitious, $100 million epic “Cloud Atlas,” which he’s co-directing with the Wachowski siblings, is expected to make a splash with its October release. But the German helmer was recently on hand at the Durban Film Festival to support a project making more modest waves in the African pic world.

Tykwer’s Berlin-based shingle, One Fine Day Films, was celebrating the world premiere of “Nairobi Half Life,” the second movie the company has produced since it was founded by Tykwer and his partner, Marie Steinmann in 2008.

Directed by first-time helmer Tosh Gitonga, the pic was a crowd-pleaser in Durban, where it cemented the growing rep of the emerging Kenyan biz and earned an actor prize for leading man Joseph Wairimu.

For One Fine Day, “Half Life” follows on the heels of “Soul Boy,” directed by Hawa Essuman, a festival circuit hit.

The pics are the product of an ambitious partnership between the shingle and Nairobi-based production company Ginger Ink.

Each year, 70 participants are selected from across Africa to take part in an intensive two-week program in Nairobi, sponsored by One Fine Day Films, Ginger Ink and the DW-Akademie, a German nonprofit supporting media development. Foreign mentors lead workshops in directing, scriptwriting, editing, cinematography, production, production design and sound design. At the workshop’s conclusion, a number of participants are selected to collaborate on a feature film.

Tykwer says he was impressed by how well participants from more than a dozen countries were able to come together during the intensive production process.

“I could never pull this off in Europe,” he admits.

The project has grown out of Steinmann’s One Fine Day NGO, which was created to bring the arts to underprivileged youths in Nairobi’s Kibera slum. The One Fine Day team quickly found that a large pool of media professionals from across the continent existed to support the new venture.

Following the successful Durban preem, the “Half Life” team is planning a splashy Nairobi premiere at the end of August. The company is exploring ways to solve the distribution woes that plague Kenyan filmmakers, and the hope is that a successful run on the festival circuit will pave the way for international sales.

The group’s third pic, “Something Necessary,” is in post. Shooting on the fourth pic, “Veve,” is expected to begin in February.

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