By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published November 22, 2014
Children, youth and adults from all over East Africa are set to converge in the Kenyan commercial and political capital, Nairobi, for the 9th anniversary of the Lola Kenya Screen audiovisual media festival, skills-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth in eastern Africa December 6-12, 2014.
At the centre of the 7-day celebrations on the theme “Youth Culture and New Markets in East Africa” shall be a five-day hands-on training in Cinematography for 11-16-year-old children and youth from the East African Community partner states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
So what is the rationale of this specialised film production workshop?
“Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is shaping youth culture and the methods used by young people to create, consume and share cultural and creative content like film, music and art,” says Lola Kenya Screen’s founder Ogova Ondego. “If children and youth are equipped with creative and professional skills, motion pictures present not just an economic and social opportunity but are also an empowering tool in the hands of children and youth across the East African Community region where 40% of the population is aged 14 years and under. It is crucial for this generation to be equipped with the skills to understand, appreciate, conceive, create and consume high quality, low-budget, culturally appropriate content that complements, enhances, entertains and promotes learning among them in the advancement of socially desirable ideals like literacy, gender equity, independent thought, human rights, environmental responsibility and global health.”
Ondego explains that it is crucial for children and youth to be equipped well to practise filmmaking gainfully as film is one of the most popular art forms among modern children and youth.
Ondego, who also doubles up as managing trustee and creative director of the initiative says it is this fact that informs the need to hold a basic but focused workshop looking at how cinematography—camera techniques, lighting, sound and editing—support other elements of filmmaking to produce high quality content.
“The aesthetics of filmmaking not only inform but often define the success and appeal of many films as audiences expect high quality image and sound quality. It is the technical quality more than anything else that sets one’s film apart and can secure one access and audience in the film sector,” Ondego explains.
Talent alone without skills acquired from training, Ondego maintains, cannot reach its full potential. “The essence of our workshop is to help train the East African videographer in cinematography.”
Besides film screenings and art and performance seminars and shows, Lola Kenya Screen, that has been mentoring children and youth in creative and cultural entrepreneurship in eastern and southern Africa since 2006, shall host a two-day high level meeting of the East African Film Network (EAFN) that champions socio-economic development, youth empowerment, cultural identity and regional integration of East Africa though the arts, mass media and film.
“The EAFN Network Formalisation Seminar shall afford us the opportunity to deliberate on pressing issues that will move our region and movement forward,” says EAFN Chair Leonce Ngabo of Burundi. “We shall also use the opportunity to promote and popularize EAFN to and among Kenyan authorities.”
On the agenda of EAFN, a regional organisation with its presence in all the five EAC partner states, shall be its 3-year action plan and strategies for sustaining it.
“It has been a long and tortuous journey getting here for Lola Kenya Screen, the only platform on the mother continent that is specifically and exclusively designed for children and youth,” says Ondego.
There can be no denying the impact audiovisual media have on children and youth. As the influence gets stronger one’s ability to seek and consume high quality content is becoming a must have skill for every young person in order for them to easily navigate the world of media content; be it film, television, print or radio. It could have been out of this realisation that Lola Kenya Screen came into being in 2005.
Nine years later, the vision has expanded from a once-a year festival to accommodate weekly school outreach, fortnightly mobile cinema, monthly film screening and discussion forum, and quarterly internship besides special programmes in media and information literacy offered as per demand throughout the year.
Upon its conception in 2005, Ondego says, one of the key objectives of Lola Kenya Screen (it means “watch movies in Kenya” in the African Bantu languages spoken across eastern, central and southern Africa!) was the training of young, up-and-coming audiovisual media talents in fields such as screenwriting, cinematography, acting, directing and producing of films.
Lola Kenya Screen has trained 265 children and youth, produced 35 short animation, fictional, documentary and experimental films by, with and for children and youth and collected awards and accolades around the world. They include the Best Foreign Documentary Film at Kids Flicks in Australia, the Grand Prize at the 5th World Summit on Media for Children and Youth held in South Africa, Special Jury Prize at the 17th Jugend Medien Festival Berlin in Germany, and Best Short Animation Film and Best Short Documentary Film at Africa Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria.
Besides her own productions being shown virtually all over the world, Lola Kenya Screen has through her own annual festival showcased more than 1950 films in all conceivable genres, formats and lengths from 102 countries.
Lola Kenya Screen’s monthly film forum that has since 2005 been presented by ComMattersKenya/ArtMatters.Info in collaboration with Goethe-Institut, had by November 2014 not only showcased 130 films from 16 countries to 7213 participants, but had also stamped its authority on Nairobi’s art calendar as the longest running and most consistent film forum in the Kenyan metropolis: LKSff is a platform for networking, publicity and marketing of ideas, services and audiovisual media content. In fact, it is the entry point for international productions into eastern Africa.
The film forum also exposes filmmakers to the opportunities that are available outside their knowledge and also boosting their skills by facilitating their participation in training workshops through Lola Kenya Screen’s partner organisations and festivals.
The highly popular hands-on, learn-as-you-do skill-development programmes in cultural journalism, film production, event organisation, arts criticism and media and information literacy has enabled children and youth from countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Zanzibar, Kenya and Zimbabwe to identify and have their talents nurtured..
The fact that they attend these mentorships when they are still in their formative years, Ondego says, enables children and youth to test the waters of their career paths before plunging into the deep end of the swimming pool.
Also, the skills the participants get from these workshops penetrates through to other aspects of their lives, such as the critical skills with which to analyse media content which bombards them every day, write good essays and compositions in school, take photographs and videos during social functions, and plan and present events be in their communities.
The 9th annual Lola Kenya Screen is supported by East African Film Network (EAFN), East African Community (EAC), ComMattersKenya, ArtMatters.Info, Goethe-Institut and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).