By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published March 20, 2016
A first-time film director and student of Theatre Arts and Film Technology has presented his two short films for critical appreciation in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Lawrence Mwangi Nduati of Kenyatta University took the route many a filmmaker dreads and presented his work for peer review during the 92nd monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum on February 29, 2016.
It was ‘full house’ during this Nairobi’s premier critical film platform that brings movie lovers and practitioners together every last Monday of the month to watch and discuss films and network.
The shorts showcased were ENGRAVED and THE VACATION.
ENGRAVED is the story of a girl who is betrothed to a man she does not love. While her friend is battling her own health problems, her brother, who is also on the brink of insanity, is her only confidant. The film takes the viewer through the young woman’s journey in trying to find her voice as alcoholism, depression and suicide beckon.
THE VACATION, on the other hand, is the story of a young man whose family is on vacation but he resolves to stay behind at home. The loneliness finally gets to him and tries to drive him insane. It shows his efforts to relate to logic through music.
The cast and crew for both films were first timers and currently students of Theatre Arts and Film Technology.
Director Lawrence Nduati said making ENGRAVED and THE VACATION “was a challenge on the production and artistic side. Being the first time working with a young aggressive team put me on my toes.”
“ENGRAVED shows how our bodies and personalities are bound by the society to a point of ruining us,” Nduati says. “THE VACATION is a silent film that portrays the personality of an individual and how music relates to what he is going through in his persona. It gives a perfect blend of musicality and a film story. It is not a film that you would watch once and understand it.”
Fridah Karuri, who did sound and lighting for ENGRAVED, said it was “a great learning experience through both research, and trial and error.”
Stephanie Jebichi Kiptui said her serving as set photographer “helped me widen my horizon and skills in photography. From the photo shoots to the set, the experience made me realise that photography is not only taking pictures but that it is a creative process as every picture has a story of its own to tell.”
Faith Wanjiru Kandenye who played Tracy on ENGRAVED said “The experience on set was priceless, being my first time; I learnt quite a lot of stuff like lighting and producing different fills of light for different moods required.”
The effort and courage by these young filmmakers to premiere their films while at the same time inviting critical appreciation is one of the aspects that stood out for the audience, a big part of whom comprised young people who are involved in various aspects of creativity including film and theatre. These young people were challenged to put their dreams into action and to do something with their talents and passions, learn and then begin to grow in their careers.
“I feel challenged to work harder, put something out there, learn from my mistakes and improve,” Collins Ochieng, an actor, said.
Peter Simiyu, another actor, said that it was a good effort on the part of the film director to put together people to work with because it is always not easy to bring people together for a production, especially when the monetary rewards are very low or non-existent.
“All filmmakers should learn from this experience because it takes a lot of patience which, unfortunately, is lacking in many people,” Simiyu said.
But the films weren’t perfect. Among the shortcomings pointed out were stereotypical acting, weak scripts, long and winding subtitles, lack of continuity, poor lighting, confusing story-line arbitrary use of music.
Victor Mzazi, a videographer noted that it was not possible to keep up with the fast speed of the subtitles.
“There is lack of continuity in the way the lighting was done and this interferes with the flow of the story,” Elizabeth Wanja, a student director, pointed out regarding ENGRAVED.
“The music used in any film should either add value to it or not be used. The music in VACATION feels out of place and serves little purpose,” Godwin Otwoma said. “Music should play a role in telling a story.”
The crew admitted to have had challenges of limited knowledge, technical know-how and finances with which to work on these productions but they committed to improving with their subsequent productions.
“We did the best that we could at this point but we intend to get better with both time and with the advantage of the experience that we gain along the way. It will be very wrong for us to repeat mistakes,” the assistant director of VACATION, Caroline Muhugu, said.
Director Lawrence Mwangi Nduati has taken acting classes at British Council in Nairobi and acted in Theatrical Plays by Liquid Entertainment Arts and Jesuit Hakimani Centre International and taken part in a Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Radio under Jesuit Hakimani Centre. He has also acted in The Chase drama series for KBC TV and Mizizi movie that premièred in 2015.
The evening ended on a note of challenge as Haroun Ng’ang’a Kiruku, a film enthusiast, urged the movie buffs to consciously try to put in efforts to translate the skills that they get from the Lola Kenya Screen film forum into action for there to be an improvement in the state of filmmaking in the Kenya and the eastern African region.