By Japheth Ogila and Steve Biko Abuya
Published May 23, 2014
THE CAPTAIN OF NAKARA, a 90-minute comedy revolving around an ex-prisoner in a pretentious, hypocritical, corrupt and dysfunctional nation-state ruled by a dictator shall be screened—for the second time—at Nairobi’s Alliance Francaise in the on-going 23rd European Film Festival on May 25. The first screening and discussion of the film was on May 21, 2014.
This Bob Nyanja-directed romantic comedy is based on a screenplay adapted from The Captain of Köpenick, a play written by German Carl Zuckmayer in 1931. It was adapted by Kenyan Cajetan Boy with input from German Martin Thau who had facilitated a script-writing workshop at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi. The script was later translated into poetically playful Kiswahili for shooting.
Whereas The Captain of Köpenick is set in Berlin, THE CAPTAIN OF NAKARA’s setting is a fictional place called Kwetu (our home in Kiswahili) which is really Kenya of the 1970s as seen from ‘Afro’ hairstyle and ‘bell-bottom’ trousers worn in the film.
The plot of the film is driven by Kiswahili narration and the comedic and almost laughable military practice of receiving and acting orders from superiors without any question; zombie- or robotic-style would be more like it!
We daresay that the message in the film couldn’t be driven forward by motion pictures alone without the narration in that Kiswahili. This is accompanied by martial music, especially at the beginning of the film to complement the soldiers’ matching in celebration of the President’s Birthday.
A period piece, the film—a co-production of Kenya’s Blue Sky Films and Germany’s Papermoon Films and Scopas Medien made in 2011—that was made with a €266,395 grant from European Union’s ACPFilms programme, was shot Nairobi.
The film has benefited immensely from the acting prowess of comical characters like Charles Bukeko who has carved a niche for himself as the reigning king of comedy, having exploited it in films like MALOONED that was directed by Nyanja, several commercials and on his television show, PAPA SHIRANDULA.
Though it is never easy directing humour and comedy, Nyanja appears to have mastered the art from his training in Literature and film. He is the brain behind comedy acts like Reddykyulas trio of Walter Mong’are, Tony Njuguna and John Kiarie who wowed television viewers in Kenya at the turn of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. He is the man behind Churchill Ndambuki’s Churchill Live and Papa Shirandula. He is the man who got Bukeko from stage to screen. He is Bob Nyanja whose expertise comes through THE CAPTAIN OF NAKARA that has translated Boy’s script faithfully and creatively in its depiction of a society that is engulfed in impunity, corruption, mis-governance and incompetence whose tentacles threaten the young country which is trying to heal from colonial bruises. It is a country whose tribulations reflect those of many African countries but whose citizens survive by adopting fear, servility and amnesia as survival tactics.
We do not hesitate to say that the realisation of this film in Kenya that has traditionally acted as a set for foreign productions by a company like Blue Sky that specialises in servicing those foreign films, was quite an achievement.