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Leaving Isiolo

In and around the border-town of Isiolo, in East Africa, a young Kenyan businesswoman and a young Chinese miner prepare to leave town to begin their new life together - meeting at their favorite restaurant for one last meal.

  • Irungu Mutu
  • Irungu Mutu
  • Loui Terrier
  • Wanzilu Maingi
  • Auudi Rowa
    Key Cast
    "Ciiku Owiro"
  • Zhang 'Troy' Renquan
    Key Cast
  • Irungu Mutu
    Key Cast
    "Mr. Musa"
  • Zhao 'James' Chuangzao
    Key Cast
  • Zhao 'Mocha' Jiajie
    Key Cast
  • Agatha Jamari
    Key Cast
  • William Mwangi
    Key Cast
  • Cynthiah Muthogi
    Key Cast
    "Hannah the Waitress"
  • Meriwas Ray
    Key Cast
    "Boda Boda Taxi-Driver"
  • Samuel Lekampaiyo
    Key Cast
  • Aisha Rajad
    Key Cast
    "Black Hijab Lady"
  • Shakila Swedi
    Key Cast
    "Blue Hijab Lady "
  • George Kariuki
    Key Cast
    "Muslim Man"
  • Loui Terrier
    Key Cast
    "Unga’s SUV Driver"
  • Joan Poggio
    Director of Photography
  • Victoria C. Page
    Edited by
  • Wynne Bennett
    Original Music Composition by
  • Gisburg Smialek
    Sound Design & Mix
  • Dale Koten'go
    Production Designer
  • Njeri 'Leeze' Gatheru
    Costume Designer
  • Ayo Jackson
    Dance Choreography
  • Jackson Kang'ethe
    Assistant Camera
  • Grishon Onyango
    Sound Recordist
  • Bilal Hamisi
    Sound Recordist
  • Onesmus Karanja
  • Wangechi Mutu
    Executive Producers
  • Mario Lazzaroni
    Executive Producers
  • Irungu Mutu
    Executive Producers
  • Joshua Trojak
    Associate Producers
  • Wambura Mutu
    Associate Producers
  • Mutu wa Gethoi
    Associate Producers
  • Arthur Sanya Muiruri
    Associate Producers
  • Ian Kabugi
    Production Assistants
  • Mark Kuria
    Production Assistants
  • John 'Geech' Mbugua
    Production Assistants
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes 58 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 24, 2021
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Chinese, English, Swahili
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • BronzeLens Film Festival
    United States
    August 25, 2022
    US Southern Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Pan African Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    April 22, 2022
    US Premiere
    0fficial Selection / Best Short Narrative Nomination 🌿
  • Zanzibar International Film Festival
    Stone Town, Zanzibar
    Tanzania, United Republic of
    June 22, 2022
    Africa Premiere
    Official Selection / Ousmane Sembene Prize Nominee 🌿
  • International Black Film Festival
    Nashville, TN
    United States
    December 2, 2021
    Official Selection & Best International Film 🏆
  • Big Apple Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    May 23, 2022
    Official Selection / Quarter Finalist
  • NBO Film Festival
    November 14, 2021
    African Premiere (Virtual)
    Official Selection
  • Prague International Indie Film Festival
    Czech Republic
    September 18, 2021
    European Premiere (Virtual)
    Official Selection / Best Supporting Actor Nominee 🌿
Director Biography - Irungu Mutu


Irungu [ee-ro-go] Mutu is an actor and filmmaker. Born and raised in the cosmopolitan African city of Nairobi, Kenya. He studied acting in the United States at Rutgers University (BFA) and Univ. of California: San Diego (MFA).

Irungu is drawn to stories that explore the relationship of the African continent to the modern world. He’s fascinated by the migration of different human populations, and the dynamics of interaction within a collective space amongst disparate people.

He’s worked as an actor on stage, TV & film in the US & internationally. He has premiered original theatrical projects at the Kennedy Center, The Guggenheim, The Public Theater, The Signature, La Jolla Playhouse, etc. Guest & Co-starred on such TV shows as ‘Succession’, ’The Blacklist’, ‘Power’, ‘Elementary’, ’Boardwalk Empire’ & ‘Preacher’, and several indie films ’Bikini Sunshine’ Dir. by Milcho Manchevski, ’Grow’ & ’Oxalis’ Dir. by Brian Gottlieb.

His proof-of-concept/short film ‘Leaving Isiolo’, made with the most awesome team on earth, premiered theatrically in 2022 at the prestigious Pan-African Film Festival-LA (Best Short Film Nominee) & screened at over a dozen preeminent global film festivals including Zanzibar International Film Festival (Sembene Award Nominee), BronzeLens (Atlanta), International Black Film Festival, Nashville - (Best Intl Film Award) and Big Apple Film Festival (NYC).

He's been a proud union member of both SAG-AFTRA & Actors' Equity Association for over a dozen years.

A principal role in ‘GROW’, a horror-indie feature film premiering this fall.
He is also currently in development for a feature film named ‘Out of Isiolo’.

He is based in Los Angeles.


Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Good morning!

“Leaving Isiolo” is a neo-western crime drama, and a story of illicit love between a woman, Ciiku (Auudi Rowa), and a man, Lee (Troy Zhang), from vastly different worlds, who find each other in the harsh, remote terrain of northern Kenya. When the pair try to escape to build their new life together, she from her job balancing the books for the regional crime lord, and he from an abusive boss at a Chinese mining company, Isiolo becomes a perilous place for them both. How far will they go to be together?
I grew up in the cosmopolitan African city of Nairobi, Kenya, went to University in the United States, and now split my time between the two. As a result, whether as an actor on stage, film, and television or now as a first-time filmmaker, I am drawn to stories that explore the relationship of the African continent to the modern world. I'm fascinated by the migration of different human populations, and the dynamics of interaction within a collective space amongst disparate people.
Auudi Rowa is a university student and rising star, who I found during open-call auditions. To find the actor who portrays Lee, I combed the Nairobi-Chinese community. I fell in love with a non-actor Troy Zhang after he introduced me to his nine-month-old daughter, Mara, born in Nairobi and named after the world-famous Maasai Mara National Park. Casting Troy as Lee was serendipitous: a sensitive caring person who knew what it meant to start from scratch as a newly arrived immigrant to Africa. He’s very well known in the Chinese community and helped bring along two colleagues, also non-actors, who appear as fellow mine-workers.
In making the film, I was lucky to have the help of producers Loui Terrier and Wanzilu Maingi; the great eye of Director of Photography Joan Poggio; and the magic hand of executive producer Wangechi Mutu, my sister, muse, and world-renowned contemporary visual artist. The crew came from the thriving Kenyan film community.
I also want to thank the 2013 Sundance Directors Lab, where creative advisor Alfre Woodard taught me that “the film you wrote, isn’t the film you’ll shoot, and it won’t be the film you’ll edit.” It was a lesson to allow what I wrote to organically take its own shape through each phase.
“Leaving Isiolo” stands alone as a short film, but it's also a study for a feature-length screenplay, now in development. Enjoy my directorial debut!


~ Irungu Mutu & the Leaving Isiolo Team.