Kenya: Nairobi Festival a Great Boon to EA Film-Makers

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Nairobi will for the next one week be turned into a movie capital of sorts, with more than 10,000 enthusiasts from the eastern Africa region and beyond expected to converge on the city for the second edition of the Kenya International Film Festival (KIFF).

According to the organisers, the Kenya International Film Festival Trust, 200 films are to be screened, which is treble the number at last year's event, thanks to the huge interest from as far afield as Europe, Asia, the US and the Middle East. The show is to be held at the Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institut, National Museums of Kenya and Italian Cultural Centre auditoriums.

There will also be screenings at the National Theatre, Nairobi Safari Club and Chester House. Unlike last year, the organisers of KIFF, whose theme this year's is the Promotion of African Cinema and Encouraging the Growth of the Indigenous African Cinema, are also taking the movies to the people.

There are planned public screenings at Kawangware, Huruma, Kibera and Kangemi in the city, while buffs in downtown Nairobi had the opportunity to watch a movie, courtesy of projectors beaming on huge screens at a section of Aga Khan Walk last night, and this will go on for the whole week.

Among the films Kenyans can expect to watch is the highly acclaimed Malooned, which is locally produced by Bob Nyanja. It is one of the most talked-about productions in Kenya this year.

Sheila Mulinya, another young local producer whose movie, The Stigma, will be screened in the long features category, says the festival is a blessing to the local producers and fans alike. "With only three major TV stations in the country, there has always been lack of a medium for us to showcase our work, and for me this festival is a platform to the international arena," adds Mulinya, one of the beneficiaries of the recent exchange between Kenyan film-makers and their Nigerian counterparts.

Other Kenyan producers whose movies will be screened include Judy Kabinge, Robby Bresson and Mary Migui. The movies are in six categories - long features, documentaries, experimental, students' productions, short features and animations.

A partnership with foreign embassies in Kenya has given the festival the much needed international touch, and director Bram Vergeer of Holland has entered two movies - New Voices and Zenji Flava.

The main attraction at the show is the community screening of the best films from South Africa and East Africa, as well a special tribute to award-winning novelist and film director Sembene Ousmane.

"We also managed to get a jury of renowned producers from six countries, meaning that judging for prizes on offer will be very balanced," says Charles Asiba, the festival director. Nine awards are up for grabs in each category, including for best actor, best actress and best Kenyan film.

Other than the film screening, there are workshops held by various organisations to benefit mass media and film students and those in and around Nairobi intending to make film-making a career.

Last year, for instance, the World Intellectual Property Organisation held a three-day workshop which discussed film rights in the region and beyond.

This greatly benefited established as well as trainee film-makers. The media -a key partner in the development of the film industry - have not been left behind either. A special workshop on film critiquing will be held during the festival.

This will be facilitated by experts from Europe and the US. The programme is aimed at promoting African movies and encouraging the general public to watch them. But perhaps the best news about the festival is that mobile phone company Celtel has come in with a sponsorship package worth Sh2.5 million. "This is in line with Celtel's commitment to promoting art and culture in the country, and this is just a start," says corporate affairs manager Janet Kabue.

Inaugurated last year, the event's main objective is to help to develop a film culture in Kenya and the region by showcasing local and international productions. It also aims at encouraging Kenyan film-makers to contribute productions which are truly Kenyan, but can go across the borders.

The festival is expected to create a local and regional audience by showcasing films that are not necessarily distributed to the local cinemas or television stations.

KIFF has had a significant impact on the national scene in just two years. Early this year, for instance, it had 10 Kenyan films screened at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the US, but only Enough is Enough, Mo & Me, Kibera Kid and Rain in a Dry Land came tops.

(The Nation (Nairobi), 29 September 2007)