By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published May 11, 2011
Lola Kenya Screen, a charitable organisation that explores, identifies, nurtures and promotes creative talents among children and youth in eastern Africa, may since September 2010 have been partnering with Slum-TV, a community-based trust that documents the lives of the people of Mathare through film, to conduct community film shows and train young people in film production and media literacy. However, the two organisations have upped the ante since February 2011 in an ambitious campaign to cover the expansive Mathare Valley that is billed to be one of the largest informal settlements in Kenya.
Lola Kenya Screen and Slum-TV have signed a memorandum of understanding and are traversing the valley and its environs to showcase films of various genres to enlighten the inhabitants of film as a vehicle for communication as well as conduct media literacy awareness in the area.
For a population that is mainly exposed to television soap operas and pirated Hollywood and Nollywood productions, the experience of seeing people and places that are familiar to them and knowing that the work has been done by local Kenyan children and youth is usually a life changing experience. For them it is watching their life projected on the screen giving them a reason to quickly point out the various aspects of the films shown to them. While the fascination of watching locations that are well known to the dwellers augur well with the younger audience who not only discuss the venues but go as far as discussing the themes raised by the films, the adults always appear to be dumbstruck; they hardly comment on what is highlighted by the various films.
The reactions exhibited by the audience from village to village in regard to short films are also encouraging for anyone venturing into this kind of productions. A well packaged short film will move the audience as well as leave them with something to ponder over. Unlike previous screenings where short films had been poorly received, the attitude was changed when Lola Kenya Screen showed a three-minute film—KATOTO—that is directed by Sheila Mulinya and produced by Lola Kenya Screen in 2008. Revolving around the antics of a younger boy over his older brother; Katoto maybe young than his brother but he rules his brother’s world. The film leaves the audience laughing their hearts out with its level of irony and Katoto’s extra-ordinary acts.
Another production that has been well received among the audience is LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS, an animated film done in 2007 by three children—Adede Hawi, Samora Michelle Oundo and Karama Ogova—under the guidance of Maikki Kantola of Finland during the Lola Kenya Screen film production workshop. The story is simply told and the audience can easily realise what is addressed in the film contributing to the overwhelming reception witnessed at the various villages where it has been showcased. Other films made by children that have been well received include THE MONSTERS OF THE NEW AGE, THE FACEBOOK ERA, and LOLA KENYA SCREEN: THE UNENDING ADVENTURE.
Also on the circuit are THE SPEAKER and SANTOS THE SURVIVOR, Lola Kenya Screen documentary productions in conjunction with the Jan Vrijman Fund/IDFA written and directed by Susan Mwangi and Rupinder Jagdev, respectively, in 2008.
On the other hand CYCLES OF DESPAIR, a 2010 Slum-TV production, has left many with mixed reactions. While many viewers tend to question some of the actions carried out by the characters in the tragic drama, some continually question the overall intention for creating the 35-minute film. CYCLES OF DESPAIR is set in a slum and shows how a drunkard father neglects his duties as the head of the family and ends up raping his own daughter spanning a series of other family problems. The film, whose idea is not clearly addressed, has left young people christening it the ‘Nollywood of Kenya’ as the pieces of stories are highly predictable.
The screenings, that have since February 2011 been conducted in various locations of Mathare Valley on Friday through Sunday evening, usually attract both young and old, men and women.
So far Lola Kenya Screen and Slum-TV have toured Bondo ground in Kariobangi, Mabatini, Mathare 4B, Kwa Austin in Mlango Kubwa, Muliro ground in Huruma, and Jobless Corner to show films that are made by children and youth reflecting slum life as well as the social life of the middle and upper class population.
The next series of monthly screenings are on May 13 (Redeemed Gospel Church), May 20 (Mathare North Social Hall), May 27 (Mathare 4A), May 28 (Kiamaiko) and May 29 (St Teresa’s Catholic Church, Eastleigh).