By Ogova Ondego
Published August 9, 2016
He is a second year university student of Theatre Arts and Film Technology whose four short films have already been shown and discussed at two of Nairobi’s premier critical film platform.
THE VACATION–the story of a young man who tries to keep boredom away by playing music–and ENGRAVED–the the story of a girl forced into engagement to a man she does not love–by Lawrence Mwangi Nduati of Mirror Cut Projects and a student at Kenyatta University were shown during the 92nd monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff) on February 25, 2016.The next work, shown and discussed at the 94th LKSff four months later, were FORGOTTEN–on the sacrifices made by soldiers to keep the world more secure and safer–and REFLECTION.
Lawrence Mwangi Nduati says he began his artistic journey in 2013 when he enrolled in an acting-for-theatre class offered by British Council in Kenya; he went through Acting Classes Module 1. This was to lead to participation in theatre, radio, television and independent movie work in quick succession before he joined university.
“I did theatrical plays by Liquid Entertainment Arts and Jesuit Hakimani Centre in 2014 before acting in a Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Television (KBC-TV)’s drama series called THE CHASE and in an independent movie called MIZIZI that premiered in 2015,” he says.
Shortly before this, Nduati–who leads a team of crew and cast in their early 20s, mostly his classmates–says he had done a radio voice-over work for Jesuit Hakimani Centre that was broadcast on KBC.
So what sort of films does Mwangi Nduati make?
“I don’t like making films that conclude the story for the viewer. I leave some things hanging forr the audience to think and conclude how the events unfold,” he says.”THE VACATION, for example, is not a film that you would watch once and understand.This 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.”
But this sort of approach may present problems–as it did during the two meetings where the viewers insisted on seeing and not being told what to perceive on screen–for the viewer who feels it is the responsibility of the filmmaker to write and tell an engaging story through the medium of motion pictures. The filmmaker, not the viewer, is the creator, the artist, while the latter is the consumer.
“Shooting THE VACATION and ENGAGEMENT was a challenge on the production and artistic side. Being the first time working with a young aggressive team put me on my toes,” Nduati says. “I had a few moments I would literally sit down and decide to cancel the entire shoot but the team would keep me going through reason. We hit some bumps along the way, had to fire a couple of people but we moved on nonetheless.”
Time being of the essence, Mwangi says, everyone was “always super busy such that even when some were having lunch others were preparing the set.”
“Shooting THE VACATION was a challenge in terms of keeping its diversity and maintaining its theme. It was so intense to the point a single scene took an hour to get the exact expressions from the actors. We all bonded and had a grand time. My highest moment was when a bunch of us were leaving a location and seven of us huddled in a 4-seater saloon car, making fun that we shall be arrested for being illegal immigrants.”
Any low point?
“My lowest moment was during pre-production when we missed out on the opportunity of working with a really profound fashion designer,” Nduati answers promptly, as if he had anticipated the question and reheared the respone.
Fridah Karuri, who says her role as sound and lighting operator for ENGRAVED was a learning experience, says she thoroghly enjoyed acting in THE VACATION “because of the silent nature of the film which necessitated vivid expression of emotions through body language.I hope that the audiences will relate to the stories in ENGRAVED and THE VACATION and enjoy the journeys from beginning to end.”
“The films helped me widen my horizon and skills in photography. From the photo shoots to the set, made me realise that photography is not only taking pictures but that involves a creative process, every picture has a story of its own,” says Stephanie Jebichy Kiptui, the set photographer who works as a part time commercial photographer and cinematographer.
Faith Wanjiru Kandenye who describes herself as “an actress featured in a few local productions, part time model, writer and film and photography enthusiast,” describes her experience on set as priceless: “I learnt quite a lot of stuff like lighting and producing different feels of light for different moods required. Working with different kinds of people was also an experience on its own. The film had me thinking about all the things normal people go through and how strong people can be. It’s a challenge to smile amid trials.”