By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published December 27, 2011
For four days—December 21-24, 2011—residents of the expansive Mathare Valley informal settlements in Nairobi were treated to a rare kind of cinema as Lola Kenya Screen and Slum-TV toured the area. The exciting programme—that consisted of music performances as well as the opportunity to share with filmmakers—presented the most beautiful and amazing films from Kenya and beyond.
From animated short films to drama-filled pieces, the Lola Kenya Screen programming ensured that the audience would have something to cheer them up over the 2011 festive season amidst the soaring cost of living in Kenya that dissipated the celebratory mood that is common with the Christmas holiday.
While Kwame Nyong’o’s THE LEGEND OF NGONG HILLS brought to life African folk tales and explained how Ngong Hills, from which planes landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport find their bearing, Steve Gray and Tom Knight’s SANTA’S CAMELS and Karel Janak’s THE TRAP FOR BABY JESUS ushered in the festive mood as they reflected on the Christmas message. Philip Hunt’s LOST AND FOUND, on the other hand, reminds the audience about the values of kindness, friendship and companionship.
Hundreds of children, mothers with babies strapped on their backs and men from work trooped to the screening grounds across Mathare valley to experience a different kind of cinema that has ever toured the informal settlements.
Additionally, the four day programme also showcased Nick Redding’s NDOTO ZA ELIBIDI (Elibidi’s Dreams), Slum TV’s MULIKA MWIZI and MATHARE HIGHWAY, and Lola Kenya Screen’s children-made VANESSA’S DREAMS, THE MONSTER OF THE NEW AGE and PASSION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT to bring the audience close to environments that they are familiar with.
Originally written as a stage play, NDOTO ZA ELIBIDI addresses issues facing youth in the informal settlements while MULIKA MWIZI is a comical reflection on a family that also lives in an informal settlement. MATHARE HIGHWAY is the story of a man with two families and the struggle to provide for them from his meager earnings as a casual labourer.
The loud applause at the end of each film proved that not only are the audience in the informal settlements craving a cinema that entertains but are also seeking a cinema that will engage them. To the children the beauty of animated cinema was too overwhelming. The well executed films left the young ones deep in thought; one only needed to look at the faces and see what impact the films had on the various audience.
Conducted every fortnight, the Lola Kenya Screen outreach programme seeks to diversify the film offering in informal settlements, thereby helping independent filmmakers to reach out to new audiences and giving the public access to a wider variety of quality works from both Kenyan filmmakers and their international counterparts.
The good reception by the many individuals who turn up whenever the programme tours the various informal settlements has convinced Lola Kenya Screen that there is a wider audience for films that is not catered for. It is on this premise that the initiative is seeking partners to continually carry out the programme and expand the programme beyond screenings and include other activities such as debates, workshops and media literacy with the aim of facilitating the exchange of ideas, broadening people’s knowledge, bringing new films to the public and helping viewers get a better understanding of these films.
A not-for-profit, professional, artistic organisation dedicated to promoting cinema, art and culture, Lola Kenya Screen has since 2005 been on the fore front creating the space in which to debate major cultural, social , political and economic issues. Through the annual film festival—whose seventh edition runs August 6-12, 2012—Lola Kenya Screen brings to Kenyan audiences films that would never have graced African, let alone Kenyan, screens. Lola Kenya Screen, that was in 2009-2010 supported by Africalia of Belgium, is intensifying her outreach programme and will now take all the winning films at the annual festival on the mobile cinema circuit as she did in December 2011.
Lola Kenya Screen is looking for partners with whom to work on the fortnightly community and school outreach programme; the December 21-24, 2011 programme was conducted in conjunction with the Mathare-based Slum-TV.