By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published February 2, 2015
Whatever you decide to do, whether as a volunteer or as a paid worker, you must do it the best way you can. Perhaps no better words than this paraphrase of Colossians 3: 23-24a of the Christian Bible could have been used in summarising the spirit that reigned during the first session in 2015 of what has become Nairobi’s premier critical film platform that met on 26.01.15.
Stressing the importance of giving attention to one’s work, a participant, Dancun Masinde, observed: “You can escape responsibility but you cannot escape the consequences. Whatever work you do, give it your all.”
The films under review during the 82nd monthly Lola Kenya Screen film screening, discussion and networking forum were THE GOD OF THAAI, a documentary focusing on traditional worship among the Kikuyu of central Kenya and THE PICNIC, a fictional film on a dating couple in a Nairobi public park.
THE GOD OF THAAI, directed by Joseph Mureithi Karugu, sets out to clarify the distinguish between the Thaai and the Mungiki who both invoke Kikuyu traditions and culture but whose approach to issues is set as far apart as the heaven is from the earth. Whereas the former is a religious group, the latter is a violent group with socio-political and economic agenda that is outlawed in Kenya. The Thaai have in the recent past been facing harassment from the law enforcement agencies because of the confusion that exists between them and the Mungiki.
At the end of the 14-minute film, one feels it has failed to clearly show the differences between the Mungiki and the Thaai and the viewer is no wiser than one was before viewing it.
But the film that seemed to raise more questions than answers was Jacklinme Emali Asava’s THE PICNIC.
The viewers could not clearly see the introduction, the middle, and the conclusion of the film just as they couldn’t identify the main character, the motive or the obstacles working againt the desire of the protagonist. Also begging for answers were the development of action and the place and role of certain events.
Drive and motivation for and of characters is very important because it helps to merge the characters with the main story and hence the main goal which the director is trying to achieve.
The question of believability in the story also took prominence during the forum. Various scenes in the film failed to come out convincingly. Film, like theatre, operates on certain baseline conventions such as the ability for the audience to suspend their disbeliefs as they look at the unfolding events. But it is not possible for an audience to suspend disbelief for an obviously unconvincing scene. Examples were drawn from the film in areas such as the fight scene, the scene towards the end of the kidnap where the dating male suddenly regains strength after bleeding so much and the mode of kidnapping the couple where two tiny men carry two bigger and heavier people so easily.
Joseph Muriuki a cinematographer pointed out that the colour in the scene that happened in the forest was no corrected, something that director Asava attributed to the scene having been shot on two different days (And on two different locations, too?). That, she said, had occasioned the lack of continuity.
Cajetan Boy who edited the film said his lack of experience in editing had led to some of the editing errors in the film.
“I was still learning on the job. I had no experience in colour editing,” Cajetan Boy explained.
A participant who introduced herself as an actress said that it is important for the filmmakers to take care of a film regardless of the challenges before it is released. It is important for film producers to have contingency measures to help in cases of unforeseen problems, such as unpredictable weather patterns and illness during a production, the actress who identified herself as Liz observed.
“We, the audience are not supposed to know about the challenges that you had during production while watching the film. Even the colours that are used in a film for different scenes are supposed to communicate something,” said Liz.
In a bid to excuse away the mistakes that had been pointed out in the cinematography, Collins, the cinematographer of THE PICNIC, said mistakes are common because “even filmmakers in Hollywood make mistakes.”
Director Asava said the crew and cast members of the PICNIC were non-paid volunteers who were learning on the job.
But Jacob Maunda, who introduced himself as an actor and director insisted that it is upon the director to ensure that the actors understand and interpret the script well.
The Forum grappled with whether the use of ‘zero-budget’ or ‘volunteers’ was a good enough reason for productions of questionable quality. The short-comings in most African, let alone Kenyan, films are said to be occasioned by volunteers at work, lack of experience and, yes, ‘Zero-Budget’. But does working with volunteers have to result in films that dispense with convention?
As long as a filmmaker has production equipment, a good script, a location, actors and production equipment operators, why should ‘zero-budget’ be an issue impacting negatively on the quality of a film?
ABOUT NDUGU, a film by David Munoz of Spain that revolves around a Kenyan boy seeking a wife for his US American foster father who has just been widowed, set the pace for what lived up to be an action-packed but enjoyable evening.
LKSff, one of the programmes of the Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skills-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth, has since 2014 been starting each session with a film for children and youth in the hope of inspiring participants to make films for, with and by children and youth.
Meanwhile, Lola Kenya Screen invites short (maximum 30 minutes) animation, fiction, documentary and experimental films from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo-Kinshasa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia for her screening, discussion and networking forum that runs at Goethe Institut in Nairobi every last Monday of the month. Creatively packaged music videos and video games are also acceptable.