SEVEN THIRTY Films: Capturing Kenyan perspectives in film

The sister duo behind this filmmaking studio tells us about the opportunities and challenges of being creative in Kenya.

Driven by a deep and genuine love for the craft of image making, Kenyan sisters Amirah and Wafa Tajdin established SEVEN THIRTY Films nearly four years ago.

The independent visual creative agency based in Nairobi has created short films, documentaries and TV ads, all with the objective of telling African stories from an African perspective. Currently, the Tajdin sisters are creating and developing two feature films, one situated in Mombasa and the other in Cape Town. 

At SEVEN THIRTY Films we work toward redefining the world through images cinematically. For us, in the end, it’s the experience of filmmaking that matters, says Wafa.

The Tajdin sisters grew up between Kenya and Dubai and today have based themselves in Nairobi. “We believe there is an artistic, creative filmmaking gap in Kenya and we have decided to fill it,” says Wafa Tajdin. 

Along with this opportunity, the sisters also face many challenges. “As creatives in Kenya our biggest challenge is budget,” says Wafa. “It’s often not understood that creatives need to have a certain budget to pull things off in a certain way and on a certain level; but it’s very important for us to invest and spend to get the quality of the product needed at the end.” 

In this exclusive interview, the sisters tell us how it all began and talk about their first short film since they set up studio in Nairobi, called Fluorescent Sin. 

We believe films are universal stories that speak subtly to people. Our films are not about activism or changing the world through philosophies. Our films are about rebellion, spirit, emotion and feeling, says Amirah.

Fluorescent Sin was inspired by Amirah’s two-year-long photographic documentation of drag queens in different cities around the world. A majestic drag queen sits on a bench at Nairobi’s iconic central station, smoking a cigarette. She descends into a breakdown portrayed through a poetic soliloquy. In eight- minutes, the film challenges ideas of beauty, sexuality and Kenyan attitudes to ‘otherness’. The short film has been screened at 14 film festivals including the Kenya International Film FestivalFilmAfrica in London and Chicago International Film Festival

Four years down the line, the Tajdin sisters feel that they are in a position to seek out projects that appeal to them. In doing so, they are able to build a unique aesthetic and present a Kenyan perspective to the rest of the world.