By Bethsheba Achitsa
Published March 8, 2012
Not that she is immature. In fact she is in her mid twenties and trying to curve a niche in the Kenyan film sector. But the astute and composed Grace Kinya says she is interested in the process of growing up and wants to explore this aspect of life in her films.
“It is not just about becoming a girl; I want to explore other topics such as becoming a man or perhaps a boy,” commented the slender budding filmmaker.
Grace was speaking at the 53rd monthly Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum held on February 27, 2012 at the Goethe-Institut auditorium where her eight minute film: BECOMING A GIRL alongside James Gayo’s THE TRIP was screened.
While BECOMING A GIRL provided the audience with a chance to explore the conditions of filmmaking in Kenya, the mirthful and witty Gayo (Tanzanian cartoonist and filmmaker) gave the Kenyan audience a spellbinding piece that left many yearning for more. Amidst loud cheers and a sense of delight this 16-minute film that revolves around two brothers, Pembe and Kaniki who are on their way to a job interview and their bus breaks down along the way was highly applauded.
Kaniki’s womanizing ways leads them into trouble after they wander off and get to a home where a suitor is about to pay dowry. In a moment of distress “ants crawling up his trousers” Kaniki bursts and ambushes the soon to be bride in the bathroom.
According to customs of the community, the first man who sees the woman naked is to marry her; the suitor walks out on his soon-to-be wife because another man has seen her nakedness. Angry the bride’s father locks up Kaniki and his brother in one of the houses. In the end it appears all is lost for the two brothers. Not only has the bus left them but the two have nowhere to go.
Gayo’s characters might have been faced with a bleak future just as long as the film lasted, yet like the characters on the screen the audience comprising film practitioners, salesmen and business ladies, students and volunteers, the mood of dreariness seemed to be pronounced in the auditorium. Time and again the operating rules about shooting in Kenya kept popping up.
Though a sales representative and environment conservationist, Hassan Juma was a very disconcerted individual. He wondered why one had to acquire a series of shooting licenses instead of one that caters for the various needs of the shooting crew.
In response, Ogova Ondego who moderated the session observed that each county has its own by-laws and thus the need for the multiple licenses. He said it will be difficult especially with the coming of county administration kind of set up for Kenya. He noted that unless things are streamlined anyone thinking of shooting across the country would have to obtain a license to shoot in each of the 47 counties just as currently happens with venues like game parks, municipalities and local authorities across Kenya .
On his part he shared his own agony with the literature publishing and copyright requirements that calls for one to pay for Kenya International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and paid for registration purportedly to protect one’s work. Unlike in the past where the numbers were issued free of charge, one must now pay at least Sh500 (about US$6.25) per ISBN issued. Then one must pay at least Sh600 (about US$7.5) to the Kenya Copyright Board besides depositing a free copy of the book to the board. This he said left him wondering how artists “whose craft is not as rewarding as a commercial business” would survive with such unbecoming operating environment.
But an optimist he urged all and sundry to raise their concerns on wide platform by forwarding their ideas to a commission that is currently drafting a policy document that is being formulated by the Kenya Film Commission on the sector in Kenya. By contributing to the document, Ondego said was one way of ensuring the relevant authorities would address the grievances of filmmakers in the country.
Among other things the forum that for the first time saw a large number of actors and actresses attend the event, explored aspects of film production such as budgets and audience perception of film. Both BECOMING A GIRL and THE TRIP were shot and produced in the context of Maisha Film Lab’a mentorship programme for filmmakers.
Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum is a specialised film screening, discussion and networking forum for practitioners in the eastern Africa audiovisual media sector. It is aimed at critiquing, encouraging and exploring ways of integrating film production in Kenya and eastern Africa with other socio-cultural and economic sectors in order to come up with a vibrant film industry. One of the first places where new films can be seen and new talent spotted, the 54th edition of the monthly gathering will be held on March 26, 2012 at Goethe-Institut.