By Sharon Atieno Onyango
Published November 1, 2015
Moviemakers in eastern Africa should capitalise on the opportunities availed by digital migration in creating content for the world and not just for their own respective countries or region.
Speaking at Nairobi’s premier critical movie platform, the 90th monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff) on October 26, 2015, George Kimani—who specialises in distribution of movie content—said, “Digital migration has not only increased but also leveled the playing field, making it possible for creators of movie content to think global as they go about their work locally.”
Kimani, who spoke during the five-minute ‘Expert Speak’ slot through which experts share their knowledge and experience with players in the motion pictures sector during every monthly meeting, noted that numerous Video on Demand (VoD) platforms abound online that enterprising video producers can utilise in reaching viewers directly instead of depending on traditional broadcasters.
With such platforms, Kimani concluded, there is a market for all types and formats of film content and that it is up to the entrepreneur to chart their own way forward.
The films in focus during the 90th LKSff were DIE RATTE (The Rat), a 12-minute drama—directed by Anja Gurres, a student of film directing at Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany—that seeks to provide solutions to serious family problems by six-year-olds; LOLA KENYA SCREEN AT 10, a 10-minute photographic documentary on the programmes and impact of this motion pictures platform for children and youth in eastern Africa that has just entered its 11th year; LOLA KENYA SCREEN’S INTERNSHIP, a two-minute photographic documentary on the learn-as-you-do programme for final year university students in Media and Information—Video Production, Cultural Journalism & Criticism, Talent & Event Management, Public Relations, Communication, Graphic Design, Web Development—and related areas offered by Lola Kenya Screen; and OUTSET, a 24-minute drama about a career family man who is supposed to be struggling with a beer-drinking problem that is directed by Erick Mwangi, a final year students of Theatre Arts and Film Technology at Kenyatta University in Kenya.
Whereas the two documentaries were screened “to commemorate a decade of Lola Kenya Screen and in honour of our talents and partners!” and DIE RATTE was “exhibited as a pacesetter encourage eastern Africans to make child-fare,” according to Ogova Ondego who manages Lola Kenya Screen, OUTSET was the film to be shown and debated during the monthly gathering that brings together players in the audiovisual media sector to screen and discuss movies and network with a view to encouraging moviemakers to adopt high quality production values, help integrate motion pictures with other socio-economic sectors and explore the ways and means of turning motion pictures into an industry.
Though Erick Mwangi said his film set out to ‘show the new beginning’ of the family in focus, it was unclear how to define what he meant by ‘new beginning‘ or ‘fresh start’; the film—that dwells on TELLING rather than SHOWING—does not show why there should be a beginning in the family in the first place.
According to the promotion of the film, OUTSET is “a short drama film about a man facing midlife crisis with a severe drinking problem. He begins a journey to reform through his wife’s love and kindness.” Well put; but the film doesn’t translate this TELLING into SHOWING: What’s ‘mid-life crisis’? How severe is ‘a severe drinking problem’? Isn’t it normal and expected of every couple to have ‘love and kindness’? Well, how do you show this is a film instead of merely waxing lyrical about it?
Apart from TELLING, the viewer does not SEE any problem that the taking of alcohol causes. Yes, Oti drinks. But he does it after work. And he provides for the family. And has little problem at his place of work or at the bar where he drinks after work
The script says OUTSET starres “JENNY, 30’s, the wife who is a stay home mom. OTI, 40’s, is a drunkard but a loving husband. He works in a Telecommunication company as a data entry person. He has been in that position for a decade now. Together they have a 12 year old son, KINGSTON. He is in primary school but too mature for his age. They live in an okay home where they don’t lack anything but they don’t have everything.”
Well? An average middle class family. Where is the crisis that would motivate the making of OUTSET? Why should a film be made on such “an okay home” that doesn’t “lack anything but” doesn’t “have everything”? This was one of the questions that not just the director, but almost everyone else in the room, had no answer to.
The issue of ‘lack of conflict’ was raised by Ogova Ondego, the Moderator of the discussion, when it appeared that almost everyone present in the full house was only heaping praise on OUTSET.
Proper interpretation of the script and casting and directing of characters appear not to have been done. For instance, the person playing ‘Priest’ appears to be rather young for the role yet he refers to the ‘stay-at-home-mum and wife seeking his assistance as ‘my daughter’; the questions Kingston, Jenny and Oti’s 12-year-old son, poses, appear not just unrealistic but also far-fetched for a child of that age: “Did dad come home last night? I don’t want to ask whether he was drank’!
Moreover, what reason does Kingston have in avoiding his father at home; has his mother poisoned him against his father? This does not come out in the film.
As the film ends, the audience is left even more confused because it is as if Oti is about to replace his so-called drinking problem with smoking. Is this the ‘beginning’ that Mwangi wants the viewer to see in OUTSET?
One of the first places where new films can be seen and new talent spotted, Ondego says LKSff is a specialised networking platform for practitioners in eastern Africa that screens and discusses movies.
”It critiquies, encourages and explores ways and means of integrating movie production in Kenya and eastern Africa with other socio-cultural and economic sectors in order to come up with a vibrant film industry,” says Ondego who has presented the monthly meetings at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi over the past 10 years.
LKSff is the initiative of ComMattersKenya/ArtMatters.Info in conjunction with Goethe-Institut in Kenya.