By Jedidah Nguyo
Published February 26, 2015
‘A successful film in Africa is made not by a villager but an entire village’ could be taken as the theme of the 83rd monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum as players in the movie sector convened at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi on February 23, 2015 to watch and critique three short films with the aim of encouraging high production values in Kenyan and eastern African motion pictures.
Bruce Makau, whose MY FAITH, a 25-minute film on the hardships of a young man after his wife gets bedridden following a spinal injury from an accident, as if adapting the wisdom in the saying ‘An African child is brought up by a village and not an individual’, observed that no one can succeed in filmmaking by relying entirely on oneself.
“Involve people who can help you in your film projects since a film is made by a village not a villager,” Makau said. “Our new production house, Kibanda Pictures, collaborated with Phoenix Players and Princecam Media. In fact, all the production equipment came from Princecam,” Makau, a theatre actor and television drama, commercials and informercials director, said.
His sentiments were echoed by Lillian Anyona of KAT Models who had been invited to the Forum to address the gathering on how the fashion and film sectors are related in the ‘Expert Talk’ slot of the monthly film platform that seeks to inject professionalism into the motion sector of eastern Africa.
She said that one of the challenges in the film and fashion industry is that one person wants to do everything instead of specialising in the area of their strength and leaving the rest to the others who are better gifted. She gave an example of someone who designs clothes, does the hair and makeup and does the photography as well. In the case of film she gave an example of a script writer who insists on directing, casting, producing, designing costumes and starring in the film even when people who can play those roles better than one are readily available.
Anyona said that there are a lot of things in fashion that are related to film. She gave an example of fashion designers and hair and makeup stylists who create costumes and make up for actors in film. She also gave the example of a short film called TO CATCH A DREAM by Jim Chuchu that has used models and designers from Kenya as cast.
The synopsis of MY FAITH, Makau’s maiden film, is “When a man comes to the end of his might, does God come in?”
And just who is this Bruce Makau?
Now working for a new film production house called Kibanda Pictures as a producer, director and actor, Bruce Makau says, “I have worked as a director for five years now. Having completed my studies and trained as a journalist, I instead chose to pursue television drama and began directing. I have directed several infomercials, commercials, two television shows—The Pasua Show on KTN and Classmates on KBC—and several television pilots yet to go on air.”
MY FAITH is Bruce Makau’s first short film in his new direction of filmmaking.
“What inspires me the most and keeps me going is my relationship with Jesus Christ,” he says.
As an actor, Makau, who won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role prize at the Sanaa Awards 2014 for his portrayal of 9 characters in the play Kaggia by John Sibi-Okumu, says, “I have been acting mainly in theatre, although I have appeared in a few television series like WARIDI and SAINTS. Bruce.”
Back to MY FAITH. It is the story of Faith and James Siwa, a young couple who are facing hardships after the former gets involved in an accident which leaves her paralyzed and bed ridden, making her dependent on the latter for everything. Besides taking care of Faith, James has to meet all their other needs as he no longer goes to work while the bills continue to pile up.
“Everyone needs hope. Everyone of us here is struggling to achieve something and we are facing difficulties; we need hope so that we don’t give up before getting what we want,” Makau said, explaining that that was why he made the film: to give people hope.
Also present during the screening, discussion and networking forum were executive producer Likarion Wainaina, script writer/sound designer/actor Brian Munene, editor Elvis Muchara and Marriaanne Nungo, one of the actors.
Godwin Otuoma,an actor and film director, commended the crew for what he termed passion that had contributed to the success of the production.
The crew members were also praised for their ingenuity in shooting the film under water.
“I found the underwater shot at the beginning of the film intriguing; how was it taken?”
“We used an iPhone with a water proof casing to take that shot as we could not afford a camera that can take under-water shots. Using the iPhone was experimental and we did not know that the shots would be good,” Likarion Wainaina said.
So why did the filmmakers name their main characters Faith and James?
“We settled on Faith because we wanted a name that could resonate on the main theme of the film. We chose James from the book of James in the Bible that talks about the trials and afflictions of a man who believes in God,” Makau said. On one hand the film talks about ‘faith’ or reliance on one’s creator and on the other James’ wife is called Faith.
Brian Munene noted that it is important for the actors cast for any role to look like the part they are playing.
Marrianne Nungo who played the character of the landlord in the film noted that when she is cast for a particular role she takes it as a big opportunity to run with it and ensure she does her level best to bring out the character as accurately as possible.
On the question of whether a set should strictly be related to the story, Munene said that a set should be as realistic as possible.
Elvis Muchara explained that the editing of the film took two weeks while the colour grading and correction took two months to achieve a colour that was realistic for the film. He also explained that the success of the cinematography and fluidity of the shots was because of the numerous consultations the crew had before and during filming. This, he said, enabled him to know what kind of film the director wanted.
There was also a question on the place of religiously-themed films in Kenya to which director Makau responded that he had set out to make a good film and not a a ‘religious film’. He advised the gathering to set out to make productions with professional integrity.
“Everything in a film should lead to the realisation of the theme and type of film—comedy, drama, music video; be it lighting, sound, cinematography, art design or costumes,” Makau said.
Also screened but not discussed were NINE YEARS OF LOLA KENYA SCREEN IN NINE MINUTES by Lola Kenya Screen and WALKING AROUND NAIROBI by Fina Sensada , twofilms created around Lola Kenya Children’s Screen, Africa’s first film platform specifically and exclusively created for children and youth that marks a decade since its establishment in Nairobi in 2005.
The next meeting, the 84th, is on March 30, 2015. Set for screening and discussion will be SEPTEMBER, a 54-minute drama that casts light on terrorism. It is directed by Mark Wambui and executive-produced by Mark Kaiyare and Simon Chege.