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Filmmaker Damaris Irungu opens up about writing ‘A Merry X-Mess’ movie

Filmmaker Damaris Irungu has opened up about the upcoming project, A Merry X-Mess, set to premiere today, December 15.

She said she was knee-deep in Easter concert preparations at Nairobi Chapel when the idea for A Merry X-Mess came to her.

After a hilarious encounter with the choir matron, Irungu says she had the recipe for her Christmas film: a choir competition, a family, lots of drama, and laughter.

Irungu, a fan of films like “Almost Christmas,” drew inspiration from the idea of not shying away from the chaotic side of family dynamics.

“What I carried from it is not being afraid to show the crazy side of family. I think it’s cool that people see a little bit of themselves or their crazy relatives on screen.”

A Merry X-Mess premieres on Showmax on Friday, 15 December, following on from Reuben Odanga’s 2022 film A Familiar Christmas, which was Kenya’s first-ever Christmas feature.

In an exclusive interview, Irungu shed light on the challenges and heartwarming moments behind the making of “A Merry X-Mess.”

When questioned about the challenges faced during the writing process, Irungu highlighted the difficulty in distributing screen time among the ensemble cast.

Yet, she found solace in the intricacies of a family story, where everyone is entwined in each other’s business, eliminating concerns about characters feeling neglected.

“One of the challenges during this process was how to distribute screen time and give everyone a chance because I was working with an ensemble cast.

But the beauty about writing a family story like the Nyatis’ is that everyone is in everyone’s business so I didn’t have to worry about characters feeling like they were not getting enough time on screen.

Irungu confessed to completing three drafts of “A Merry X-Mess” before feeling satisfied with the storyline.

Despite her desire to continue refining the script, practical constraints as a working writer led her to recognize the right moment to share it with the world.

“If I had it my way, I’d still be writing the script as this interview goes out. But as a working writer we have to know when to let go.

At the third draft, I felt it was good enough to be shared with the rest of the world.

Of course, I was only confident because, at the table read with the crew and cast, hearing the words come alive and seeing them crack up at my jokes was just magical.

They were my first audience,

and seeing them resonate with the script and connect with it gave me the assurance it was ready.”

Reflecting on the central message of the film, Irungu emphasized the importance of family, not limited to biological ties, but as a place of belonging and warmth.

Additionally, she spoke passionately about the theme of rebirth, viewing Christmas as a time to reset relationships and move forward with forgiveness.

“The theme of rebirth is also close to my heart. I think of Christmas as a time to reset, even if we were on the wrong footing with someone or a family member, at Christmas time we get to forgive and move past the hurts and reset as we get ready to start the new year.”

She reminisced about numerous heartwarming moments on set, describing the experience as magical.

Irungu, with a touch of humor, defined a Kenyan Christmas as one filled with traditional delicacies like mutura and dondero, where friends and family gather to share laughter, devour delicious food, and express gratitude for the passing year.

A Merry X-Mess follows Reuben Odanga’s A Familiar Christmas as the second Christmas feature film in Kenya.