It was an awesome experience for young audiences at the PCEA Enchoro Emuny Primary School as the mobile Cinetoile African Film Network implemented by Lola Kenya Screen in conjunction with Africalia, the Belgian Development Cooperation and the European Union got to this middle class private institution. The sight of the giant screen mounted in the church not only raised the curiosity of the young ones but that of the school head teacher who could hardly wait for the 3.30pm show to begin. She called more than three times between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm to ensure the technical crew had their equipment ready for the show to begin. And then, BETHSHEBA ACHITSA reports, she led her entire school to the church 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Walking into the PCEA church that would serve as the screening hall, the headmistress Janet Mbau requested that the screening starts early so that all the children would not miss the electrifying experience. As they walked into the screening room the gigantic screen that had been erected at the front appeared to the only thing that caught their attention.
The concentration exhibited by both the teachers and pupils throughout the 96-minute screening reflected their thirst for African cinema and unlike in a previous session in Kibera where pupils walked in and out during the show, the ones at Enchorro Emuny appeared to be glued to their seats and to the screen.
Despite the sombre mood created by the FROM A WHISPER film that revolves around the terrorist attack on the American embassy in 1998, the audience warmed up to the second session that comprises a moderated discussion of the films.
Though some of the children might have been a year old or were not yet born when the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya took place, it was moving when one of the boys could easily summarise up the film and mention even the year that the cataclysmic event had taken place. This set the pace for the discussion as it demonstrated that the audience was well aware of what was happening in the film. What made the children even happier and more excited was the fact that they were seeing some of the actors they are used to seeing on their television sets at home.
Having watched some of the cast perish in the film the children who did not have an understanding about filmmaking kept on wondering whether their favourite actors had perished in the event. Responding to these the Lola Kenya Screen director explained to them that Wanuri Kahiu’s fell in the category of documentary and fiction filmmaking where the film is about a real event using real news footage that had been mixed with fictionalised acting in some scenes for better understanding by the audience of what had occurred. Consequently, the actors they were seeing were just re-enacting imaginary scenes of what couls have happened.
When asked about what they felt about the film, the general answer that the children gave was that it was sad. But when further prompted on what they had learnt from the film the audience said they felt for all those who had lost their lives in the 1998 bombing; many felt they could not trust even their siblings or close friends after witnessing what happened between bosom friends Fareed (Abubakar Mwenda) and Abu (Kenneth Ambani) in the film.
In regard to what Kenya could do to prevent terror from happening again, the children were of the opinion that the country should have peace with the rest of the world and more so learn to forgive one another.
Apart from the pupils one teacher wondered how the film had helped solve the ideological conflict between the people who believe in Islam and the USA.
At the end of the session that was attended by 338 people, one of the pupils asked whether Lola Kenya Screen could make more copies that the students could buy. In response the moderator stated that Lola Kenya Screen was not involved in selling the film but that the children could buy copies of FROM A WHISPER in leading supermarkets in Nairobi. As for the other four films from Ghana (HERITAGE AFRICA), Burkina Faso (SAMBA TRAORE), Cameroon (MA SAAH-SAH) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (LUMUMBA), perhaps it was only the children in whose schools Cinetoile is taking place who would be lucky to watch them in Kenya.
This perhaps indicated that Cinetoile that aims at encouraging the promotion and distribution of African films in Africa is a worthy cause to enlighten people on the continent about the importance of African cinema.
PCEA Enchoro Emuny Primary School was founded in 1992 as a center to offer education to the children from the surrounding communities. It has 320 pupils and 18 teachers.