Kenya International Film Festival 2008 Ends
Interview by Ken Owino
Pictures by Isaac Miriri
Published November 4, 2008
Charles Asiba, festival director of the third annual Kenya International Film Festival (October 22-November 1, 2008), speaks about KIFF 2008 that was held at Alliance Francaise, Kenya National Theatre, Goethe-Institut, Nu-Metro Westgate, Italian Institute of Culture, Nairobi Safari Club and Nairobi Museum.
How many films were submitted to KIFF in 2008?
280; we had more films than last year. The number doubled.
From which countries and what types of films did you receive?
We have a bulk of films from Europe and East Africa. We have more short films than the long feature ones because we want to screen more films so that people can have a variety.
Surely not all the 280 submissions screened; how many of these films did you show?
You’ll have to confirm that from the programme but we tried to include as many as possible.
What criteria did u use in selecting films to be screened?
Films have to be unique and different; the difference is that we are celebrating cultural diversity. We wanted to show different films from different parts of the world.
Complaints abound that many of the films in the KIFF programme should not have been included in the selection of a festival that defines itself as international. What can you say about the quality of the films?
Very good! In fact it’s the reason why we never screened all the films submitted. We had to get the better quality ones.
Comment on the many venues used
We scattered the venues across town to create a cinema going culture. People don’t go to cinemas but we didn’t want a general audience only. We wanted professionals to come closer.
Why not one venue, bearing in mind that the attendance was anything writing home about? In fact, some of these venues were not even fully utilised.
One venue would have been tricky because we are not only screening films but also have organised workshops and forums to cater for the audience as well as the filmmakers.
Compare this year and last year’s festival
This is the first time we have an international look of the festival not only in terms of films but also the filmmakers. At least within the region we have 20 invited guests. These are filmmakers who are involved in the East Africa Filmmakers Forum and most of them have brought films; we got the first entry of a Malawian film which is very interesting for us. We have filmmakers from Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar. This is more of an East African film festival than a Kenyan festival. Last year’s festival had a lot of hype because there was a corporate sponsor on board. This year has been more of a professional approach in terms of the various workshops and forums for filmmakers, critics and others.
What would you say is KIFF’s contribution to the development of the film sector in Kenya?
KIFF has developed a cinema culture by screening films from all over the world. We had problems managing crowds that had turned up to watch the films at certain venues.
Who were the sponsors of KIFF this year?
The major sponsor is the Kenyan government through the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) which hosts KIFF, the French embassy which has been very supportive even in the previous years. Most experts have been sourced by the French embassy, not forgetting Africalia Belgium who supports the community screening.
What would you say were some of the achievements of KIFF 2008?
There has been a level of interaction that has never been there before. People have been able to discus issues, and even getting a little bit emotional about discussing the issues affecting the film sector within the region. There have been capacity-building workshops in different venues and I know people are going to learn to make better films.
Did you identify any shortcoming or weak link?
Of course but whenever you have a problem you look at it as what needs to be filled. The festival has been my brainchild. I developed it into what it is now. I need to stop. I need people to work, to run around. It can’t be a one man show any more. The fact that it’s growing means we need more people to run it. But the funds are not enough. The next festival will need to have people permanently employed to run its activities. It stops being a Charles Asiba affair but a national event run by serious people.
What’s your take on the local film sector in general?
The film sector is growing but more still needs to be done; six filmmakers from last year’s festival have been commissioned to make TV programmes meaning they are not actively making films. I think this sets a very bad precedent.