Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum

The Battle of the Sacred Tree
Watching Wanjiru Kinyanjui's feature film Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum, one would never guess that it was the director’s graduation project from the DFFB. It displays a wit and self-assurance rarely seen in student films. It was also shot far from Berlin, in a Kenyan village with Kenyan actors. The film was based on a short story by the best-selling author Barbara Kimenye. The dialogue alternates between English and Kiswahili, and the soundtrack is by a Senegalese musician called Mamadou Mbaye.
Protagonist Mumbi leaves Nairobi and her abusive husband for her ancestral village. There she clashes with a Christian women's group, whose members are determined to eradicate every last trace of pre-colonial beliefs. They are particularly vexed by a magnificent tree, because the villagers believe it possesses supernatural powers. A cunning mayor and an amorous tailor leap to Mumbi's defence, and in the end it is ants that engineer what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the doyen of Kenyan literature, once referred to as "Decolonising the Mind".
by Wanjiru Kinyanjui
with Margaret Nyacheo, Catherine Kariuki, Roslynn Kimani, Titi Wainaina, Ben Ateku, Tirus Gathwe, Jeff Munene, Catherine Njoki, Amina Khamisi, Pauline Njoroge
Germany 1995 English, Swahili 82’ Colour


  • Margaret Nyacheo
  • Catherine Kariuki
  • Roslynn Kimani
  • Titi Wainaina
  • Ben Ateku
  • Tirus Gathwe
  • Jeff Munene
  • Catherine Njoki
  • Amina Khamisi
  • Pauline Njoroge


Director Wanjiru Kinyanjui
Written by Wanjiru Kinyanjui based on a short story by Barbara Kimenye
Cinematography François Kotlarski
Editing Eva López Echegoyen
Music Mamadou Mbaye
Sound Hans-Joachim Beckmann
Producer Kristov Brändli

Produced by


Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB)

Flamingo Film

Sender Freies Berlin (SFB)

Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR)

Wanjiru Kinyanjui

Born in 1958 in Nairobi, Kenya, Wanjiru Kinyanjui studied German and English literature before studying directing. She is an author, screenwriter and director and teaches film production at Kenyatta University.


1987 ...wenn ein Fremder dazu kommt...; co-directed by Yvonne Gaerber, 18 min. · ...wenn ein Fremder dazu kommt...; co-directed by Yvonne Gaerber, 18 min. 1988 A Lover and Killer of Colour; 9 min. · A Lover & Killer of Colour; 10 min. 1991 African Time; 22 min. 1992 Black in the Western World; 23 min. 1993 Vitico, eine lebende Legende; 15 min. 1995 Der Kampf um den heiligen Baum (The Battle of the Sacred Tree); 82 min. 1997 Zawadi ya Daudi; 83 min. 2007 Bahati; 40 min. · Manga in America; 57 min. 2009 Africa Is A Woman’s Name; 30 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2023