By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published October 27, 2010
On Monday October 25, 2010 a rather chatty crowd of young people(majority of who are trying to cut their teeth in Kenya’s fledgling audiovisual media sector)gathered at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi looking forward to an entertainment-filled evening during the monthly Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum (LKSFF).
And the 41st LKSFF was not a disappointment to the enthusiastic crowd that started gathering for the 6.00 PM event as early as 5.00 PM. The monthly event provided a rich serving of short films by a new entrant to the filmmaking stage, Reuben Odanga who, together with his cast and crew, presented SAIDA and SSHHH! to the audience.
The two short films left the more than 50 individuals yearning for more. Deeply moved by the stories that reflect on the daily happenings in the human life, a member of the audience exclaimed: “Reuben why did you have to do this? You bring us to a climax and just leave us up there unsure of what goes on?”
SAIDA is a gripping tale of a young physically handicapped girl whose parents will not allow her to go to college because they don’t want her to disturb other people because of her physical challenges.
More interesting about this 18-minute snippet of what goes on in the life of the girl and her family, the production of this short film is as intriguing as the story itself. Inspired by its location, Odanga says the film was shot over a weekend as he had gone to Mombasa to shoot a wedding event.
With the short free time he had while on this task he decided to shoot the film in 2010, having worked on the script four years earlier. While many would question the quality of the production done under such circumstances, SAIDA is of high quality which earned praises at the 41st LKSFF from the audience who nevertheless thought it ended too soon.
However a few members of the audience felt that a large number of the cast did not own their roles effectively. Consequently others felt that the cast appeared to be more theatre-oriented and extend it into the film. Explaining that there had been no time for rehearsals and a low budget Odanga said that he could not pay screen actors and had relied on individuals who had volunteered their services and thus some of them were involved in theatre.
Despite the shortcomings pointed out by the audience, the film that shows what befalls a young girl who gets impregnated by a domestic servant was lauded by the audience for not being explicit with sex as it only shows the two reminiscing on what happens when it becomes clear that they have been involved in a sexual affair.
On the other hand the 13′ 25-minute SSHHH! revolves around a young man torn between protecting the property he has acquired through hard work and his own life when violence erupts after the disputed presidential elections in Kenya.
With many feeling that the films had both ended too soon before addressing the issues it set out to, Odanga admitted that he had indeed not adequately addressed the issues. For instance, he said, SSHHH! had been meant to highlight the role played by mobile phones and FM radio stations in fanning the December 27, 2007 post-election violence that almost tore Kenya apart.
While the film had impressed the audience Valentine Kamau a musician faulted the music score of the film observing that it distracted the viewer from fully enjoying the film. In response Odanga noted that without a provision for music score due to the lean budget he was working with they just came up with a beat for the film and hence that music score.
Asked about his budget Odanga indicated that he had injected Sh35,000 (about US$438) into the projects though he had received support in kind from actors/actresses and other post production processes. He said he is working on expanding the two shorts into full-fledged features.
Odanga’s passion for the arts, he explained, did not just begin with these two short films.
“I was involved in the performing arts while attending St Peter’s Primary Boarding School in Mumias and Kakamega High School in the western Kenya where I won awards as best actor,” he said.
Odanga studied Electronic Media at Daystar University and for four years he worked with a company known as Sisimka Productions before joining Zenith Media where he currently works.
Held at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi CBD every last Monday of the month since December 15, 2005, LKSFF is a a discussion and networking platform aimed at critiquing, encouraging and exploring ways of how to integrate film production in Kenya and eastern Africa with other socio-cultural and economic sectors in order to come up with a vibrant film industry.
“We watch and discuss short films from Eastern Africa, exchange ideas and network every last Monday of the month throughout the year. This forum is often one of the first places where new films can be seen and young talent spotted,”says Lola Kenya Screen director Ogova Ondego. “Over the years more than 100 films from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo-Kinshasa, and Ethiopia have been shown and promoted around the world.”
Ondego adds that LKSFF(a part of the annual Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skill-development mentorship programme and market for children and youth in eastern Africa)brings together filmmakers, film critics, film writers, students, scholars, policy-makers within the governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, associations, funders, actors and actresses, social awareness groups, cultural agencies and other players with a stake in the film sector.
The films exhibited and discussions arising from them are reviewed and published by ArtMatters.Info with a view to promoting the films; the stories are picked by film festivals, media schools and international funding agencies around the world; the articles are also picked by journalists and other mass media for reproduction.