|Interview by David Wesonga
Published July 24, 2007
Ogova Ondego, director of Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival for children and youth speaks on the initiative ahead of the second edition running August 6-11, 2007. He speaks to DAVID WESONGA.
Lola Kenya Screen is now in its second edition; give us a brief history of the festival.
Having worked as a journalist on the arts and culture beat, jury member at international art, culture and film festivals, volunteer and coordinator of the African Cine Week of Nairobi and having trained in film production, and organisation and management of audiovisual markets and festivals, I saw too many yawning gaps in the audiovisual media sector in Kenya that needed to be filled in but few people were willing to do something about them. So, out of protest, Lola Kenya Screen”Kenya’s first international film festival”was mooted in a nondescript hotel on Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi, one afternoon in October 2005. A month later, it wasÂ launched in Cape Town, held its first monthly Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi in December 2005, and the first annual Lola Kenya Screen held in August 2006 at Goethe-Institut and Alliance Francaise in the Nairobi central business district.
Why a film festival for children?
Children are agents of change. Lola Kenya Screen is a movement that seeks to entrench in Kenya and eastern Africa the culture of making and consuming quality audiovisual productions that bring about socio-economic development. The present and the future belong to children and only they can shape it.
Do you partner with anyone/organisation in hosting this film festival? Who funds the festival, since holding such an event requires lots of money?
Lola Kenya Screen is a movement that works with individuals and organisations who share our vision. The success of Lola Kenya Screen comes mainly from what is done before and not during the festival. Networking is everything to us. Some of the key people in our network have included but not been limited to Mike Auret (formerly of Sithengi/Cape Town World Cinema Festival), Dorothee Wenner (Berlinale Talent Campus), Padhraic O’Dochartaigh (DW-Akademie), Thomas Hailer (Berlinale’s Generation section).
Tell us something about Lola Kenya Screen’s membership on the International Centre of Film for Children and Young People, CIFEJ.
Operating on the African communal spirit of “I am because we are”, Lola Kenya Screen seeks out individuals and organizations who share our vision to achieve our aims. One such body is International CIFEJ. Through our membership in CIFEJ(an organisation founded in 1955 under the auspices of UNESCO and UNICEF to promote excellence in cinema for children and young people)our family network is expanded. And our credibility, too.
You hold annual production workshops and produce films from them. Last year you produced something, how was it received? What are some of the places you have screened them?
Lola Kenya Screen is not just another cultural film festival that showcases films made by others for our consumption. Rather, it is a production workshop, market, and film festival all rolled into one. During the inaugural film production workshop in 2006, Antonia Ringbom of Finland facilitated an animation workshop with 10 children aged 10-15 years. They made FILMS BY CHILDREN FOR CHILDREN, a nine-film compilation that has since been shown in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Berlin, Gdynia, Goree Island, Kampala and Nairobi. By the time the next workshop is held August 6-11, 2007 with Annemette Karpen and Maikki Kantola of Denmark, our production will have been screened in Kigali. It is also lined up for showing in France, Belgium, Brazil, The Netherlands, and Congo-Kinshasa.
Tell is about Lola Kenya Screen winning the grand prize at the kids for kids Africa/5th World Summit on Media for Children.
FILMS BY CHILDREN beat 50 films from 20 African nations to the Grand Prize at the Kids for Kids Africa/ 5th World Summit on Media for Children in Johannesburg, South Africa, in March 2007. This win gave FILMS BY CHILDREN FOR CHILDREN a direct entry into the international Kids for Kids festival and free distribution worldwide by CIFEJ.
Uganda hosted the Amakula Kampala International Film Festival in May; Zanzibar will be hosting the ZIFF in July. Do you participate or have any affiliation in these east African film festivals?
We work closely with Amakula Kampala International Film Festival and several other numerous festivals around the world.
You aim to establish a resource centre. Tell us about it.
The envisaged Lola Kenya Screen film resource centre will be stocked with audiovisual information and equipment to benefit students, scholars, researchers, journalists and other seekers of information.
What can we expect from this yearï¿½s festival?
This year Lola Kenya Screen received 265 films from 46 nations as opposed to 2006 when 216 films from 37 nations were submitted to us.
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Hosting an international film festival like Lola Kenya Screen requires participation from many stakeholders including the government. How has the Kenyan government received this initiative?
We were pleasantly surprised this year when Dr Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the ministry of information and communications, presided over our official launch on July 3, 2007. He spoke very highly of Lola Kenya Screen, presided over the awards, and declared the government had identified animation as the genre to promote in filmmaking. Two days later, the government waived the fee for film classification for us. We are grateful for this is a good start for what we view as a productive relationship with the government o Kenya. We only wish the government would set aside some funds to support Lola Kenya Screen as well.
How is a film workshop coordinated? During the screening or after?
The production workshop runs concurrently with the screening of films; 10am-4pm daily.
Lola Kenya Screen is the only screen film festival for children in Eastern Africa. What is the future for such festivals entirely dedicated to children and the youth?
The future can only be bright for child-focused festivals like Lola Kenya Screen
Does Lola Kenya Screen incorporate the mobile cinema feature in its screenings?
This is included in our future projections. But we must start in our Jerusalem, Nairobi, before fanning out to Judea, Samaria and the entire world through mobile cinema.
What does the future hold for Lola Kenya Screen? Where are you headed as a film festival exclusively for children?
We shall become a reference point besides entrenching the filmmaking and consumption culture in Kenya and in eastern Africa. Watch this space.
Some critics have questioned the role of film festivals; some have said that film festivals compromise on matters of quality. What do you think of this?
Lola Kenya Screen is not just another run-of-the-mill festival but one that sets standards in quality. Our festival is run by professionals trained in film appreciation and criticism, filmmaking, and festival management. We take quality seriously and will not compromise for whatever reason. We may be just two years old but no festival in eastern Africa receives and showcases as many international films as we. We do not screen just about any film simply because it has been submitted to us. It has to meet our standards in terms of theme, cultural relevance and sensitivity and production standards. Try us.