By Daisy Nandeche Okoti and Sarah Mokobi Kimani
Published July 6, 2013
“After a couple of years, the only thing I am likely to remember about this film is the cabbage,” said David Gian Maillu after watching BWANANGU MURESHI, a 60-minute film showcased and discussed during the 67th monthly Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum (LKSff) in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 24, 2013. “The most important thing is how a story is presented and if one does not tell a story in a catchy way, it won’t go far.”
And that set the pace for appreciating this 60-minute drama revolving around Mureshi, a police officer whose purpose in life appears to be beer, extortion and adultery at the expense of his wife and career. Instead of combating crime, Mureshi protects criminals in return for bribes.
One of the 25 films produced by Vivid Features under its experimental Jitu Productions line, BWANANGU MURESHI is made in Gikuyu, Kikamba, Kiswahili and English and shows the results of a reckless life through Mureshi who has seen little else other than demotions in his police career that spans 25 years.
Alexandros Konstantaras who, together with Evelyn Kahungu and Egregious Jitu, directed BWANANGU MURESHI (Mureshi my husband), was in the house to introduce and talk about the film and the Jitu initiative that sought to produce a large number of films and sell them at rock bottom prices from the benefit of the economy of scale.
Konstantaras explained that the mixing of languages in the films tells the Kenyan story better because most Kenyans mix tongues in their day-to-day conversations and interactions. He added that the choice of language employed was dictated by the market they had targeted.
But should the choice of language be a concern when all other aspects of making of a film have been well done? If a film is good, then the choice of language becomes inconsequential.
“Language should not be a problem in a film. Once we start raising concerns about the choice of language, then this means there are other problems in the film,” observed Juma Williams, an actor-cum-filmmaker.
Character presentation of the two lead characters—Mureshi played by David Mulwa and Mrs Mureshi played by Magadalene Muchoki—was another major bone of contention at this Nairobi’s premier critical film forum.
While a section of the audience felt that Mureshi and his wife took up their roles energetically and portrayed their circumstances well, there was a feeling that both characters were underdeveloped.
Paul Mailu, a fourth year student of Communication said that it was not easy to define the character of Mureshi. At some point, Mureshi doesn’t understand English well and at yet another he is a competent speaker of the language!
Dr Rosemary Nyaole-Kowour, a Communication lecturer at Daystar University who had led 12 students from Moi University to the Forum, observed that it was wrong to subject an experimental film to the rules governing conventional movies.
Cajetan Boy, who specialises in scriptwriting and makes films at Et Cetera Productions argued that it is important that the film is fully packaged before it is released. He emphasised that the film should explain itself because it is not often that a film maker gets the chance to meet his audience to explain to them what he set out to do.
Grace Irungu, a writer and producer, observed that the storyline of BWANANGU MURESHI didn’t have the uniqueness that would have made it memorable. She wondered why the story was too long while leaving many of the issues it touches on unresolved.
“The fact that there is no emotional development or any other kind of development for the two lead actors makes it flat,” she said. “The Mureshi one meets at the start of the film is the same Mureshi one parts ways with at the end of the 60-minute engagement with the screen.”
Pushing the argument that ‘too many issues’ were touched on but left unresolved, Paul Maigua, a journalism student at Moi University, posed, “Was this a style used or was it as a result of limited time that barred you from achieving a quality production?”
Zenuith Zawadi, a script writer and producer, wondered why it took a long time to establish the characters in the film and the director explained the aim was to familiarise these characters to viewers to enhance understanding on the role of each character.
Kevin Okoth, script writer, wondered why the film was shot on one location and Konstantaras said this was to cut down production cost of this film made in 2009 but that was being shown to the public for the first time.
Speaking about the challenges of filmmaking in Kenya, Konstantaras said that there are no defined film distribution channels in Kenya. This lack of legitimate distribution channels is what made the Jitu Films to go into distribution through super markets before the project was suspended due to exhorbitant costs incurred on distribution.
BWANANGU MURESHI is an adaptation of a play by David Mulwa, a fact that Jean Gichoke, a writer at Film Kenya, attributed to flaws in character development, unclear plot and non-working scene arrangement. She contended that there was little effort put in to transform the stage play into a screen play.
Towards the end of the forum, there was a general agreement that story is key when making a film. How that story is told is a very important factor.
“Artists should ensure that whatever piece of art they come up with tells a good story. People take time to watch films because they want to take something away from it. So if there is nothing to take home from a film, people will not watch it; talk less of buying it,” David Maillu said in his capacity as the father of pop literature in Kenya. He is the author of fast-selling books such as After 4:30, My Dear Bottle and Unfit for Human Consumption.
“Quality and impact of the film is important and for every film there is an audience for it,” Konstantaras said.
The aim of LKSff being to bring together the film sector fraternity n eastern Africa to screen films and discuss them, encourage one another and network, there is little doubt that this objective was achieved at the 67th LKSff.