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Enjoyment and Learning at Nairobi’s Film Forum

By Harun Ng’ang’a Kiruku
Published August 9, 2013

kuku-ya-yellow by deejay Msalaba at Lola Kenya Screen film forum.At around 15 minutes to 6.00 pm on July 29, 2013, I was standing outside the entrance to the auditorium of Goethe-Institut, the venue of the Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff) that shows films every last Monday of the month. Although I whiled away the time looking at the mother-and-child statue in front of Maendeleo House that accommodates Goethe-Institut, I was anxious and wondering what sort of management was behind the monthly LKSff; I was expecting to find the door open way before their indicated time of the show. The doors were swung open five minutes to 6.00pm and I, together with three other filmmakers, entered the auditorium.

In less than 10 minutes later, the 150-seat hall was halfway full; so we had so many anxious filmmakers in Nairobi? Or is it that we have all of a sudden woken from our sleep? The management team was set, the films were ready to play, and the audience was wanting.

Watching KUKU YA YELLOW by Deejay Msalaba and MALIKA by Bee Gilbert was an exciting experience for me. It was like we were in a theatre watching one of the ‘greats’ of Hollywood. KUKU YA YELLOW is the story of a born again Christian young man looking for a marriage partner and praying to God for the answer as he is convinced it is the right time to have a wife. Feeling it is taking rather long, he seeks assistance from a ‘servant of God’ he sees on television and from a witchdoctor. Every step he takes leads him astray, until he sits back, relaxed, waiting upon the giver of everything good. The film was done on a ‘zero’ budget, and by a self trained director and screenwriter who doubled up as the main character.

MALIKA, on the other hand, was the story of a young girl struggling with the challenges of poverty though with the desire to go to school. Krysteen Savane, who was production manager and associate director of the film, said it was done on a ‘small’ budget of around Sh100,000 (about US$1000). The film deeply moved me to tears by the arrangement of Bee’s idea.

People could hardly hold their questions during the second of the three-part Forum; that of interacting with the makers of the films. It was one of the best times I ever had. The platform was also a good one for learning because there were experienced producers, directors, writers, actors/actresses and a host of other practitioners to provide insights and advice.

The lessons I learnt from the forum, among others, were:
• Excessive use of stereotypes makes a film lose its main purpose
• Camera positions and the kind of shots help in spicing up a film
• When using flash backs, you don’t need to repeat the entire scene to explain an event
• The choice of characters is one of the most important, as they are the ones to bring to life the idea you initially had
• Costumes play an important role in filmmaking
• Casting or the choice of character versus the theme of the film is an important consideration
• Working on a ‘zero budget’ can sometimes be frustrating, thus the need for prior financial planning.

We also got to brainstorm on the challenges facing local filmmaking, and some of our findings included:
• Local producers are not watching local films
• Producers are making films but are not showing them to the world
• People are becoming too selfish or too mean to combine efforts with others to make a professional film; they end up being everything in their film ( producer, director, main actor, camera man)

The monthly Lola Kenya Screen film screening, discussion and networking forum is one platform people need to get used to, for it is the only consistent peer-review platform through which local filmmakers will showcase their potential, network and help build their career.

LKSff is a specialised platform for practitioners in the eastern Africa audiovisual media sector. It is aimed at critiquing, encouraging and exploring ways of integrating film production in Kenya and eastern Africa with other socio-cultural and economic sectors in order to come up with a vibrant film industry.

LKSff is often one of the first places where new films can be seen and new talent spotted.

The initiative of ComMattersKenya/ArtMatters.Info in conjunction with Goethe-Institut that is held every last Monday of the month throughout the year, LKSff is part of the Lola Kenya Screen (LKS) audiovisual media festival, skill-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region.

Harun Ng’ang’a Kiruku is a student of Video Production in Nairobi, Kenya.


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