To an ordinary Kenyan, Judy Kibinge would not ring a bell but that would not make her any less a filmmaker. When her film, KILLER NECKLACE, was shown at Goethe-Institut during the 31st Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum, it attracted an audience that could have made many local cinemas green with envy: it had a full house and some people could not get seats! BETHSHEBA ACHITSA and GRACE KINYA report.
KILLER NECKLACE is the story of Boo, an honest young accountancy student and Noni, his seductive girlfriend from with secrets to keep. Boo would do anything for Noni, but being the material girl she is, Noni has her eye on a different prize: the most beautiful golden necklace in the world!
When the 40-minute feature film ended, it was clear that the audience was yearning for more as they loudly applauded. It was not in doubt that the audience had enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot. While some thought it was too short, others wished it had been longer; still others wished the many stories strung together in it should have been developed further.
Producer Appie Matere said the director’s cut, that was screened at the 31st Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum is 40 minutes while the film that M-Net is to screen will be 30 minutes. The film could not be accepted for the short film competition category at the Berlin International Film Festival as, at 40 minutes, it is ‘too long’ to be considered a ‘short film’.
James Migwi, a trainee at Seven Productions, said KILLER NECKLACE was very believable and it reminded him of his own experience, as well as his friends experience living in a slum and wished that many people would get a chance to watch it. He sees film as a mode of communicating issues.
Betty Caplan, a teacher and freelance writer, felt that there were too many stories crammed in one small space. Kibinge said she had wanted to highlight the plight that many young minds undergo and felt that that was not too much as this is common even with Hollywood and Bollywood filmmakers who juggle up more than one theme in their films. She thought that this was a good way to explain why youth are forced into doing things that are unacceptable to the society. For instance, what drives a person into crime, such as stealing?
The level of acting was highly appreciated and the lead actors(who were in the house)received a standing ovation.
The casting director, Derick Assetto, said that it was easier to use unknown actors. An audience member said that he would have liked to see more emotion in the actors. Some of the established characters in the film were Raymond Ofula and Abubakar Mwenda.
Kibinge’s Seven Productions became involved in this project when they entered a competition that M-Net runs every two years. This is Kibinge’s second M-Net film, the first one being AFTERMATH that was made in 2002.Some of the challenges she faced were the wavering currency exchange rates.
The film, fully funded by M-Net, took 24 re-writes of the script, more than one year to write and about eight days to shoot. They shot with the Red camera and were one of the first to use it in Africa.
In answer to the question of what they could have done differently, Matere and Kibinge said that this was the tightest film that they made so far.
A question was raised on how the crew acquired props such as guns. Matere said this was not a difficult process and only required writing letters to the Kenya Police and the Kenya Armory and then waiting for a fortnight to get the guns.
On the safety of shooting a film in a slum like Majengo in Nairobi, one of the locations of KILLER NECKLACE, Kibinge said they experienced few problems.
For a film like KILLER NECKLACE, which has been nominated for Best Short Feature Film at the 5th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Nigeria on April 4, 2009 and is screening at FESPACO (February 28-March 7, 2009) in Ouagadougou, the audience seemed to concur with the judgment of the AMAA Screening College that nominated it.
Aside from the storyline, the audience sought to know the total budget in producing this film, a question that had also come up during the preceding forum; the producer, Appie Matere, responded: US$100,000. But of course this is well beyond the range of budgets of most films made in Kenya and eastern Africa.
Among many other issues, that the producer highlighted to the audience included the difficulties that many filmmakers experienced to shoot a film in their own country. She said that it has become too expensive for one to shoot a film on the streets of Nairobi as the City Council of Nairobi has raised charges from the previous Sh7,500 to Sh10,000 to shoot on a single street. This only does not make matters worse for filmmakers but leaves them reeling in poverty because a large sum of the money is spent in paying for the shooting sites.
That is not the only trouble that filmmakers have to face, in a country where the copyright laws s blatantly flouted piracy remains one big problem to filmmakers. The trouble is made worse when one seeks assistance from the relevant government agencies.
According to Matere, the process is so tedious that if one is not aware of how to go about it, one will have lost good money to piracy as you, walk from one office to another seeking for the anti-piracy license.
Just to prove that the audience would want to watch the film once again, the film director was asked how the rest of the public would get a chance to watch it. Explaining that the film was a production of South Africa’s M-NET and that it was not made for sale but to be screened on the M-Net pay channel television. That it is not available for sale. However, Kibinge is allowed to screen the film at festivals and other non-commercial fora like Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum.
We can anticipate that the future holds a lot Kibinge who has established a production house called Seven Production. She is currently working on a documentary about youth and leadership in Kenya. In what she refers to as ‘hustling’, Kibinge works as a freelance maker of commercials.
Born in Nairobi Kenya in 1967, Kibinge graduated in Design for Communication Media from Manchester Polytechnic in the UK. She then worked at McCann Ericsson Kenya for eight years, three and a half of which she was Creative Director placing her as the first black Creative Director in Kenya. In 1999, she quit McCann Company to pursue a career in filming and to this day, she has directed films such as The Aftermath (MNET New Directions 2002), Project Daddy (Baraka Films 2004) and Dangerous Affair (Baraka Films 2002) which won the overall prize at the Zanzibar Film Festival in 2003.
Moderated by Grace Kinya, the 31st LKSFF ended at 7.38pm.
With an audience of more than 80 people coming together to watch this riveting movie indicated that Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum founder and director, Ogova Ondego, had a vision if taken seriously by all those who attend LKSFF; that this would shape the film sector in Kenya. LKSFF holds at Goethe-Institut every last Monday of the month throughout the year.
The next edition of LKSFF, the 32nd, holds at the same venue at 6 pm on March 30, 2009.