Kenya’s rugged show at Africa film awards

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Kenya’s only success at this year’s Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) announced last weekend came from a movie that portrays the life of President Obama’s half-sister, an animated film based on Maasai folklore, and a local production with a top Nigerian actress starring as the lead character.
 
The Education of Auma Obama, a portrayal of the US President’s older half-sister, directed by Nigerian Branwen Okpako, won the AMAA Prize for Best Diaspora Documentary.

The film tells the story of Auma as an overachiever who studied linguistics and contemporary dance in Germany before enrolling in a Berlin film school during the 1990s, where she met Okpako.

Since its release last year, it has been screened at major events including the Toronto International Film Festival.

Nollywood actress Rita Dominic won the Best Actress Award for her role in the film Shattered, directed by Kenyan Gilbert Lukalia.

In the movie, which also won the award for Achievement in Make-up, Dominic plays the role of Keziah Njema, a woman struggling to overcome the trauma caused by years of abuse.

The AMAA Prize for Best Animation was handed to The Legend of Ngong Hills, based on a Maasai folk tale about an ogre who frequently raids a nearby village until he falls in love with a beautiful maiden.

This 10-minute film, directed and produced by Kwame Nyongo, had previously won honours at the Kalasha Film and TV Awards and at the Zanzibar international Film Festival last year.

Nyongo, one of Kenya’s leading animators, is also the creator of the children’s TV series Tinga Tinga Tales and the author of A Tasty Mandazi.

There were two other Kenyan films nominated in the category for Best Animation: Climate Change is Real and Nauliza.

Despite receiving four nominations, The Rugged Priest, whose story revolves around the murdered Catholic priest John Anthony Kaiser, did not win a single award on the night.

Bob Nyanja was beaten to the Best Director Award by South African Charles Vundla for the film How 2 Steal 2 Million.

Released in September 2011, this directorial debut for the New York-based South African was named Best Film at the eighth edition of the AMAAs held last Sunday in Lagos.

The movie was the night’s big winner, scooping four awards out of a total of 11 nominations. Vundla is renowned as the creator and producer of the long running television series Generations.

“This was a disappointing night for Kenya film,” says Ogova Ondego, AMAA’s representative in East Africa, on returning from Lagos earlier in the week. He says the success of How 2 Steal 2 Million is down to the superiority of the South African cinema and technical know-how. “The story is a thriller which gets your heart racing at every turn and my only surprise is that it did not win in more categories,” says Ondego.

Unsurprisingly, Nigeria’s Nollywood walked away with more awards than any other country, with a total of 12, followed by South Africa’s 10 awards. The Academy received 328 entries. The Awards Jury picked winners in 26 categories.

The poor performance of Kenyan films is an opportunity to take stock of the apparent reversals in the industry since the Wanuri Kahiu’s From a Whisper won five awards three years ago.