By Ogova Ondego
Published April 2, 2014
A record-setting attendance was recorded at Nairobi’s longest running and most consistent film forum on 31.03.14 as children, youth and adults jostled for space and vantage position at Goethe-Institut during the 74th monthly film showing, discussion and networking platform known as Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff).
Being screened was 40Gs (Forty Thousand Shillings), a film by Joan Mwihaki Kabugu on how a youngster spends her first salary. ACTS 319: SPOKEN WORD BY SKELETRONIXX, a theatre performance based on Acts of the Apostles book of the Bible and performed by Felix Warutere set the pace at this forum whose aim is to view, appreciate and encourage high quality, culture-sensitive film production in eastern Africa. Warutere, a civil engineering student at Technical University of Kenya said the performance had been inspired by his drug-doing cousin’s act of turning to Jesus Christ for freedom from drug abuse.
Though LKSff that is often one of the first places where new films can be seen and new talent spotted usually starts at 6.00, a large number of film lovers arrived for the function an hour earlier. Among them were children despite the fact that this specialised film meeting targets adults: filmmakers, researchers, journalists, critics, writers, students, scholars, policy-makers, financiers, performers, marketers, distributors, exhibitors, consumers, cultural agencies and other players with a stake in the film sector.
Having 123 people at a movie show may be nothing to write home about in countries with well established film-going cultures. But it is a great achievement in a country like Kenya in which it is not uncommon to see two or three–usually the organisers or hosts!–people in an auditorium with a 250-800 seat capacity. Indeed, it isn’t surprising for filmmakers whose works are showing at a festival to skip the event altogether. Moreover, LKSff is a by-invitation-only event. Do you now see the point in why one would go lyrical over 123 attendees at such an evening event in Nairobi.
At the end of the screening, the gathering analysed the films in terms of how believable the characters, events and stories were; theme; originality; viewer appeal; setting; visual style; continuity; and mastery of cinematic language.
Also looked at was camera work, lighting, editing and packaging of the films in terms of promotional posters and trailers.
While some members of the audience expressed displeasure at what they described as the Forum being ‘too harsh’ in its assessment of the films that had been showcased, others said the films were ‘perfect in every sense’. However, many of them appeared to fall in step after it was pointed out that the aims of the Forum were to ‘critique’, ‘encourage’, ‘experiment’ and ‘explore possible ways in which to turn Kenya’s film sector into a vibrant and sustainable film industry’. That that could not be realised without a critical dissecting of what the sector was producing. But others refused to buy the argument insisting that the audience should suspend its disbelief in order to enjoy any film or live theatre.
“When you come to watch a movie, do you come prepared to see what is offered or to see what you already want to see from your own perspective?” a member of the audience asked.
“Unless you are inventing your own rules and a new game, you have to respect the existing rules of the current game that brings us all to this Forum,” another participant responded.
Among the speakers who stood out during their presentation were independent producers Loi Awat and Barbara Karuana and editor David Kariuki as they called upon filmmakers in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa to up their game if the region is to compete globally.
John Karanja, who was to have delivered a five-minute motivational talk on Film Production Mentorship did not show up.
The moderator of the evening was Wairimu Wanjage, a journalism and communication intern at Lola Kenya Screen.
LKSff introduced a segment for a short film for children in its monthly programme on 31.03.14. The aim is to expose the genre of making films for children to local practitioners. A children’s short is expected to open every monthly meeting followed by Motivational Talk, Pace-Setter Film, and then the Film of the Month.
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The initiative of ComMattersKenya in collaboration with Goethe-Institut that is held in Nairobi every last Monday of the month throughout the year, LKSff is one of the five programmes of the Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skills-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth in eastern Africa. The others are weekly school outreach, fortnightly mobile cinema, quarterly internship and annual film festival.
The next Forum, the 75th, is on April 28, 2014 at 6.00PM.