- Monsoons over the Moon by Dan Muchina
Monsoons Over the Moon, in English and Swahili and shot mostly in black and white, is a two-part dystopian short film created by the Kenyan visual artist, filmmaker, and director Dan Muchina, who calls himself “Abstract Omega.” Set in Nairobi and echoing Muchina’s own experience with oppression perpetrated by the Kenyan dictator Daniel Arap Moi, the film addresses surveillance, mass incarceration, the impact of capitalism—and, as I will explain, sexism. Muchina states that “my motivation for the script was based on my own experiences living in Nairobi city and witnessing the grim reality that is mostly kept out of the news and swept under the rug. I was compelled with the intention of shining light to this reality” (Kiri Rupiah, “Now Watching: ‘Monsoons Over the Moon’ The Sequel,” 2015; http://afripopmag.com).
The film, which is told “from the perspective of those struggling the most within this dictatorial system” (“Monsoons over the Moon–Part 1,” Our Africa Blog, www.ourafricablog.com) depicts a postapocalyptic science fictional Nairobi in which the government has shut down the internet and books have become exceedingly valuable. On the entertainment website Bottom Line Kenya, Will Press provides an insightful analysis of the film’s social and political critique, as well as its attention to the negative impact of the internet:
We don’t really want to look into the roots of inequality of land ownership, politics fuelled by tribalism, the ever expanding wealth gap, corruption, domestic terrorism etc. . . . The film’s internet-purged setting not only calls into question our general perception of the internet as the omnipresent portal of communication and repository of information that we will always have access to . . . but also the new digital era characterized by shoving all of our memories, ideas and random thoughts into “the cloud” . . . . Monsoons also questions how easily we entrust for-profit corporations with terabytes upon terabytes of our information and culture.(“Film Review,” Nov. 15, 2015, www.bottomline.co.ke)
But Muchina focuses as intensively upon gender repression as governmental repression. The story is told from the perspective of Shiro (Anita Kavuu-Ng’ang’a), whose abusive boyfriend is being pursued by a street gang called The Monsoons, whose members insist that embracing the unreal can help to liberate people from the system. (Here Muchina is alluding to the Mwakenya Movement, an organization accused of disseminating antigovernment ideas during the 1980s.) Their strategy in this instance is to issue a death threat against Shiro: either she will turn over her boyfriend to them within three days, or she will be killed herself. Trapped in this situation created of, by, and for men, Shiro herself turns to magic. No mere 1984 [End Page 319] moved to Kenya, Monsoons suggests that what we take to be reality is really a constructed fiction. “Is the world real or is it a dream?” asks the narrator. “There is no real or unreal,” he says. “Everything you experience is simulated in your mind.” In the end Shiro’s dependence upon the unreal may or may not be effective, but this strategy celebrates the potential power of magical thinking, which provides cognitive estrangement from reality to generate thought experiments that can lead to social change. Like Samuel R. Delany, Muchina is a male author of science fiction devoted to feminist issues. Monsoons is also akin to the magic-centered and woman-centered African alternative realities created by Nnedi Okorafor.
This connection to feminist science fiction manifests itself most clearly in the soundless introduction to part 1. Shiro removes her headscarf and long robe, and by doing so she unveils her femininity in the form of her body and braided hair. As she throws away patriarchal cultural accoutrements, and also her former boyfriend’s phallic gun, Shiro is enacting her female subjectivity. She receives a mwakenya, a text—written by a Monsoon gang member...