Making Cinema Good Again – The East African

By TONY MOCHAMA

The film industry in Kenya is neither dead nor thriving. It has been emerging for a long time with touches of creativity, both local and international productions. But most of the time it just rubs shoulders

Timothy Owase is a man with a mission and a vision. And he wants action now.

As chief executive of the Kenya Film Commission, he has his work cut out for him.

The film industry in Kenya is neither dead nor thriving. It has been emerging for a long time with touches of creativity, both local and international productions. But most of the time it just stops.

Owase has new ideas which he says, when implemented, will reinvigorate the industry.

One such idea is using cell phones to shoot feature films. The Commission rewarded the winners of the fifth edition of My Mobile Phone Story this month and is in the process of receiving entries for the sixth edition, the winners of which will be announced next year.

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“Our goal at KFC is to promote creativity among filmmakers across the country, and by enabling innovative tools like the mobile phone to tell our audiovisual stories, we are actually expanding the reach of cinema in the region through these awards. ”

It’s not a crazy idea at all.

Award-winning feature from director Steven Soderbergh High flying bird was shot entirely on i-Phone, as was his psychological horror film Foolish which came out in 2018.

Then there’s the transgender-themed movie Mandarin about a transvestite sex worker who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her and was completely taken down by 3 i-Phone 5S smart phones. But Owase is also interested in the traditional end of the screen.

“The Film Commission of Kenya wants Film Hubs or Audiovisual Production Centers as we officially call them, set up in every county, and we already have them in Nyeri, Bomet, Uriri and Uasin Gishu counties.

He argues that film editors, animators and storytellers from other parts of the country would not have to travel to Nairobi to complete their productions if they had these centers with the necessary software in their county production centers. .

”The outgoing governor of Machakos, Alfred Mutua, took cinema to heart and created Machawood.

“The cultural departments of Kisumu, Embu, Nyeri, Mombasa, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties have also helped KFC to work with filmmakers from these regions in artistic projects,” he said.

Owase hopes incoming governors across the country will consider the importance of having people telling their own stories in film, as it creates cultural understanding.”

He also talks about the potential revenue windfall for the country if Kenya develops a proper film industry like Nigeria or South Africa or creates fertile ground for filmmaking by international production houses in the country.

”When a great film is shot in Kenya, the accompanying staff and talent employed, hotels, transport and logistics, legal services provided boost the economy and know-how.

“You will find that up to 400 million Ksh ($46 million) is spent in the country.”

“We are also looking at someday creating a proper film academy,” says Owase, “with the government hopefully setting aside film funds that talented filmmakers can easily access.”

Young Kenyan filmmakers Krysteen Savane and Bea Wangondu of Anno’s One Fine Day Films say such funds would boost projects like their recent film SupaStaz which screened at the Prestige Cinema in Nairobi earlier this month, as it is quite difficult to get a movie on screen. made in Kenya.

Reluctantly, Owase concedes that Kenyan creatives do not yet seem to have found a single voice with which they can approach other institutions and the government to negotiate their participation in resource participation.

For example, the Arts Society of Kenya, tasked last December with bringing together actors from the film and other creative sectors, appears to have been disbanded and turned into a training programme.

Never giving up, KFC always organizes workshops in collaboration with the Media Council of Kenya, to train Kenyan journalists in writing about cinema, because all creative works need publicity.