Exclusive: Voline Ogutu on inspiration for Netflix’s ‘Anyango and the Ogre’
Award-winning screenwriter Voline Ogutu shared the inspiration that struck her when she made the now-airing Netflix African Folktale film ‘Anyango and the Orge’.
Speaking candidly in an exclusive interview with Nairobi News, the flourishing filmmaker said that in her new work of art, she wanted to depict what typically happens in society and merge it with an all-time kids’ African folktale.
“Anyango and the Ogre is one of those stories my mum told me and it was also an exam that I took in high school, I was turning a certain age and I felt like my value as a woman in society was changing. The movie is about the value of women in society, the value placed on women by society, and the value that women place on themselves as a result,” said Ogutu.
She went on to describe the idealization process using some scenes from the movie, saying, “So at the time I was turning 30, and I had spent every valentine on my own, that’s where the blue zone and the grey zone came in because it felt like at the time, women who were married or women who had partners were put on a pedestal and were valued more than women who were single.”
Ogutu wanted to bring out how women in society are put in a space where their value is dependent on whether she was married or not. Having seen women in her life and equally experienced the same fate, Ogutu made the film in such a manner that shed light on the unpopular societal trend that has women in mental and emotional bondage.
“So the blue zone is where all the married women lived and using their rings they could access different resources, but women who were single were living in the grey zone and could not access the resources. So basically it was a metaphor for how society views single women past a certain age. Which is why in the movie, only women under 30 were allowed to be married in the blue zone,” she narrated.
Anyango in the film, according to Ogutu, is a woman who represents many women in society.
“So that was basically the concept, and that was who Anyango was. A woman who was told she has no value without her husband and her marriage, and she has devalued herself in the process and she’s willing to put up with anything, even abuse which is something a lot of women put up with,” said the producer.
Putting the ideas together, the triumphant screenwriter said that the film wraps up what is typically known to be an African culture.
“So that’s why I married the two ideas. Anyango who is of this women, and the ogre who is not just the abuser, but also the society that facilitates this environment and does not support women,” she concluded.
Ogutu was among the few select winners of the African folktales reimagined short film competition by Netflix and UNESCO where each winner walked away with Ksh3 million and a production budget of Ksh9 million to create short films.
Ogutu has written for several international and local TV series, including a thriller feature, 40 sticks, which premiered on Netflix in November 2020.
The final six filmmakers then went on to the development phase of their projects before starting production on the short films recently premiered on Netflix as part of An Anthology of African Folktales.
Netflix and UNESCO launched the competition in October 2021 to promote diverse local stories and bring them to the world.
This new anthology of six short films covers several genres. However, as most probably know from hearing fairytales as kids, the stories do tend to have a dark side. Something evil or a villain that needs to be defeated for good to win. The same is the case with these African folktales. After all, these are the original African fairytales!
The anthology series was made as Netflix’s partnership with UNESCO to support the next generation of storytellers.
In 2021, there was a call for submissions to this project which resulted in over 2,000 applications from 13 countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The six elected storytellers for African Folktales Reimagined come from Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritania, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The winners were as follows;
Loukman Ali from Uganda with Katera of the Punishment Island is episode 1 (runtime 27 minutes).
Korede Azeez from Nigeria with Halima’s Choice is episode 2 (runtime 24 minutes).
Voline Ogutu from Kenya with Anyango and the Ogre is episode 3 (runtime 18 minutes).
Mohamed Echkouna from Mauritania with Enmity Djinn is episode 4 (runtime 19 minutes).
Walt Mzengi Corey from Tanzania with Katope is episode 5 (runtime 13 minutes).
Gcobisa Yako from South Africa with MaMlambo is episode 6 (runtime 20 minutes).