By Daisy Okoti
Published February 27, 2014
Just at what point does the importance of making a good film pave way for a poorly made film? This was part of what the 73rd monthly meeting of Lola Kenya Screen film forum, Nairobiâ€™s premier critical film platform, grappled with on February 24, 2014 during the screening and discussion of two horror short films titled JUST A DREAM and CHURCH, LOVE and CULT.
While JUST A DREAM is supposed to be a nightmare for a young man, CHURCH, LOVE and CULT tackles hypocrisy by church leaders. Both films are directed by Warui Waters and written by Ramadhan Kakai who also takes up the lead roles.
Among the issues raised and discussed by the more than 56 members of the audience included camera technique, the inspiration of the films, music score, believability level of the films, casting, setting, scripting, roles of key crew, and time taken in pre-production, production and post-production.
On why the camera was shaky, director Warui who also handled camera and edited both films said that he had deliberately done. The intentional shaking of the camera, had it been done to serve a purpose, could have held water but if they were used without any clear reason as was the case in these two films, then that contributed to the weaknesses in the films.
Asked why he did not seek help, Warui said he did not know any one in Kenya who could have operated the Canon E600 and Canon 60D he used in shooting his film. The audience didnâ€™t buy the argument.
When it came to the non-realistic and non-believable nature of both films, he explained that that happened as he omitted some scenes from the script. This, he said, led to some scenes â€˜hangingâ€™ and the film lacking a smooth flow and coherence. He said lack of time and finances was to blame.
What was even more glaring was Waruiâ€™s admission that no casting audition was undertaken for both films as there was no budget to pay actors.â€ Instead, whatever little resources available were â€œused to hire equipment and feed the cast and crew on location.â€
David Kariuki, a video editor, pointed out that the color editing was extremely poor in the film. Warui concurred, saying that at the time the films were completed he did not know that there were software that could be used in colour grading and correction.
Kakai, who is identified as in charge of scripting, casting and acting, said the problem with lighting may have resulted from the fact that lighting was not used in all scenes. But is that a good enough reason? Obviously, a scene that needs light cannot be complete without light.
What also came out clearly was that roles had not been defined to put key crewâ€”director, producer, cast, writerâ€”to account for both sins of commission and omission. Once the crew realized that the films had glaring mistakes such as in editing, sound and lighting, why wasnâ€™t time taken to go over and rectify these anomalies?
Kakai said that some of the cast members were travelling while others had examinations and that they could not be on location for long. But Cecilia Wangare, a video editor, could not buy the excuse.
â€œSuch occurrence could have been avoided through a clearly planned pre-production process, â€œ Wangare argued. â€œFilm is serious business and time should be taken while engaging in it. Was there any initial agreement with the cast members about their availability?â€
They said they hired the camera to shoot JUST A DREAM for a ‘few hours’Â and for two days for making CHURCH, LOVE AND CULT.Â This could show that the production crew were in a hurry to make both films.
It would have been better for the filmmakers to have postponed the making of those films to a time when all crew members and cast would have been available, Wangare stressed, to avoid the mistakes manifested in the films that were screened at Goethe-Institut in February 2014.
Mwendwa Mutua of Artskills Film and Theatre took Kakai to task when the latter admitted to having â€˜spent just two days to write the script for both filmsâ€™.
â€œWriting is a process that involves pre-writing, writing and a series of re-writing in order to fine-tune a piece,â€ Mutua said. â€œSpending just a day to work on a script that is expected to end up in a good movie is far-fetched.â€
The storyline and the language used appeared to have been huge challenges to the filmmakers; the story neither developed nor flowed. Continuity was also lacking.
Kakai said that the challenges in the production process led to the omission of some scenes in the film and that is why there was a problem with the story line. But that should have come from director Warui who put the film together.
These having been the maiden films by Warui and Kakai, both graduates of TV Production and Mass Communication from Nairobi Aviation College, could have been better done had they taken time to inquire from other people in Kenyaâ€™s fledgling movie sector.
In his final remarks, Ramadhan Kakai was grateful for the existence of such a platform as Lola Kenya Screen film forum on which people in the region can converge and learn from one another.
â€œIt is good experience learning from the audience at the Lola Kenya Screen film forum. I hope to grow and continue to engage with you people,â€ Kakai said.
Warui, on his part, pledged to continue working and interacting with other people â€œin order to grow in the industry.â€
With effect from February 24, 2014 LKSff has introduced a segment called â€˜My Storyâ€™ that will give a player in the film sector the chance to speak about oneâ€™s area of specialization for five minutes in order to encourage others and to show that an industry is made up of several related parts working together as a system. â€œDirectors, producers and actors alone cannot create an â€˜industryâ€™,â€ LKSffâ€™s Convener, said.
First on the podium was Alexandros Konstantaras whose film, HOUSE OF LUNGULA, has played in cinemas. His address, therefore, was on â€˜Making Films for Cinema.â€™ He said making money from film is important and that one must have oneâ€™s target market in mind as one makes a film.
LKSff, the initiative of ComMattersKenya in collaboration with Goethe Institut,has been running every month since December 2005. The Forum meets at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi every last Monday of the month.
Additional reporting by Bruce Komu