Netflix keeps pushing its international output by looking towards Africa, and in this very specific case, Kenya, to look for new talent and new stories. We all know that Africa and the countries inside of it have had a rough time in history. Most of these countries have been scorched by wars, political corruption, crime, and many other awful things that should not be happening. And yet, even among that darkness, there are people willing to do something for the common good.
African cinema might be one of the most interesting and niche corners of the global entertainment industry. There is simply no other way to look at it. Anything coming from Africa will be different and often unique, as this continent hasn’t had the opportunity to present its stories to the world, as many other continents have done in the past. So, Netflix has given Kenya the chance to present one of their stories on the platform. In its current form, this opportunity is a great step in the right direction.
Country Queen is the first TV series produced in Kenya that debuts on the streaming platform. The series stars Melissa Kiplagat, Melvin Alusa, and Nini Wacera. The series is a straight-up drama that tells the story of Akisa, a young woman who left her home in the country to look for success in the city. However, when her father falls sick, she needs to come back home, where she discovers that an unscrupulous mining company is poisoning the people. It is there that she will make a stand to save her town and herself.
Country Queen is a fine show. It tells a very powerful story about something that is occurring in Kenya and other African countries right now. Despite all of its poverty, Africa is one of the richest continents when it comes to natural resources. It is a strange paradox that all those riches are never used to improve the lives of the people, but to fill the pockets of corrupt politicians and businessmen. Criminals that steal with a pen instead of a gun.
As such, and just because of the type of story the show is trying to tell, it is quite unique. It is exciting to see new voices in the medium. This is a representation of the best kind. We can only hope that many other countries around the world that have not been able to partake in this industry that lives from telling new stories every year can add their two cents to the initiative. Netflix might be having a hard time right now thanks to their quantity over quality working methods, but things like this one should be applauded.
However, outside of that, can Country Queen compete with other Netflix shows? The answer is complicated. It is well-shot, and it is a show that can take the word “solid” as a perfect way to describe itself. But when it comes to delivering what most people look forward to nowadays, it might not be up to the task. Why is that? There are a couple of factors that really hurt the show, and keep it from being great.
The first thing is the visuals. While the show is directed in a very competent way, the visuals are just boring in every single way. We are not only talking about the camera work; we are also talking about cinematography. The show has chosen to have this washed-up look where all the colors just die, and we see dull versions of them for most of the episodes. This makes Country Queen not a very pretty show to look at.
The second issue is the performances. The show delivers its dialogue in a mixture of both English and Swahili. This is very interesting, but it might be hurting the actors when it comes to delivering their lines naturally. More often than not, the English lines feel unnatural. It is not a thing of accent, but of delivery. We point out the mix of languages, but it can also mean that the actors are not very good, or that they were not directed very well when it came to delivering their performances. It could be anything.
The fact is that, with very weak visuals and sloppy acting, the show does feel a bit amateurish. Fortunately, the show leans heavily on Kiplagat’s performance to carry the show. She makes Akisa feel like a real person, not a hero, or anything in that line, just someone trying to do the best for herself and the ones she loves. The rest of the cast does what they can, but there is no real standout, especially among the actors playing the roles in the city. Akisa and her family come across as more natural performers.
Country Queen is a great first step for Kenya in getting one of their shows on a streaming service, especially Netflix, the biggest one of them all. There is still a lot that can be improved, but the potential is there. We can only wait and see what Kenya and other African countries have in store for us. The future looks exciting in that aspect.