In the past year or so, there has been a movement brewing in the Kenyan cinema arena. It’s not just about general audiences getting excited at IMAX complimentaries or guys rushing to the cinema at 7 a.m. to watch a film when it’s cheapest (like some people I know); It’s about what’s going on with the filmmakers themselves; student filmmakers.
During film festivals and forums, it was not uncommon to hear filmmakers complain about how there is no money to make films. And after a long time of whining about how Kenyans themselves and the government don’t give a shit about film in Kenya, someone said something to the effect of “We must first create something great to motivate people to invest.” And many student filmmakers took this seriously. They gathered friends, had each chip in and they made a movie…then another…and another…These filmmakers got up, put their own little shillings into their scripts, and found that they could actually make good films on their own!
And then came the game changer: the Campus Film Symposium; an event organized by Film Kenya Magazine and happens once every two months. It’s a gathering of filmmakers and enthusiasts and it circulates around different institutions that offer film/ media as a course. Basically, it’s a networking forum where people get to watch Kenyan films, and student filmmakers get to show the films they’ve made in order to get critiques and answer questions on the making of their films. The first symposium happened at Kenyatta University in March 2014 and the second happened most recently (17th -19th June) at USIU.
The event happened strategically after Kalasha nominations had been made, and the Kenya Film Commission decided that, it would be a great idea for people to watch the nominated films and vote too during the event. We got to watch great films like SIMIYU SAMURAI (funny), SOMETHING NECESSARY (okay-ish) and VALENTINE YA NJARAMBA (hilarious and well made).
However, we were also subjected to really badly made films that had people asking how such films could have been nominated into Kalasha! Two of the nominated films had to stop screening midway due to public demand and House Of Lungula the film everyone had been waiting for received not-so-kind reviews afterwards.
In all this, it was student films like SHOES and ALL IS WELL that got the audience’s attention. Shoes is a lovely and creatively edited story told in less than five minutes with not a single word said nor a face shown- just shoes. (I hope they’ve put it up on YouTube for everyone to see.) All is well is yet another well shot film that highlights the crazy things that happen in high school when teachers go on strike. It will definitely resonate with high school scholars and leavers as a reminder of those good ol’ days! (I will share the link to the film’s YouTube address)
Other films that deserve a mention include Sticking Ribbons, The Deep End, Rolling On, and USIU Culture Week 2013 Documentary which I found pretty interesting, since I didn’t know much about USIU or how they do their stuff.
All the above mentioned films are not the most perfect there is but watching them, you can see that they spent time and effort on the artistic side of film making, and that’s a lot to say in the face of “professional” RiverWood films that are riddled with bad cinematography, sound and editing.
And as student filmmakers continue taking risks and making awesome stuff, there is need to have all those films on the internet for the general audience to see the amazing things they have made. If your film is not that good, it will obviously be bashed and trashed but so what? You learn something new each time you make another film and that’s always a great thing. What’s more, putting it on the internet allows other filmmakers to ask questions about how you pulled off a certain shot, how they can work with you etc. Hoarding your film to yourself helps no one- not even yourself. Films are made to be seen so if you’re a Kenyan filmmaker, gather your guts, create a YouTube channel, and upload a freaking video already!
P.S.: For Filmmakers and Enthusiasts who want to keep up with the film news and happenings the following are links you should follow:
- FILM KENYA MAGAZINE – The magazine site has interesting film news. Their FB page here highlights upcoming productions and film events
- CAMPUS FILM SYMPOSIUM– for news on workshops and the symposium’s timelines for film submissions etc
- PAWA 254-Have really great and frequent film workshops and discussions
- KENYA FILM COMMISSION– their marketing is really bad so you’re bound to miss some great things and events if you don’t go to them yourself.