Nairobi abuzz with local film festivals


Kenya filmmakers at Udada and Mama Afrika Film Awards. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU

Kenya’s equivalents of the American Oscars and Emmys will be awarded on December 9th to an outstanding array of local cinematographers, actors, films, TV shows, commercials and others who have contributed to making local film and TV industries thrive over the last few years.

The Kalasha International Film and TV Awards Night is set to be the best Gala event organised by the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) since Kalasha first came into being seven years ago.

One reason the Gala is likely to be the best is partly because the number of entries submitted for consideration this year is the highest ever seen by the Commission.

With the deadline for submissions having recently lapsed, the KFC just announced that no less than 1,677 entries have been made. Out of those, 237 are films. So the jury of eight has a serious task of vetting.

Fortunately, the Commission has assembled an impressive team of professional filmmakers and communications experts to be this year’s jurists. They include Dr Rosemary Nyaole-Kowuor, Martin Chege, Kiama Kariuki, Serah Mwihaki, Jim Karutu, Tim Rimbui, Sylvester Mutua James and Michael Muthiga.

According to KFC’s Caroline Gitahi, the team of eight has already begun vetting since it’s not just the films and TV shows that will win awards. It’s also the actors and backstage people without whom the films and TV shows wouldn’t look or sound as good as they do.

So one can look forward to finding out not only what are considered the best films, TV shows and commercials of 2017, but also who are the best in sound, lighting, special effects, screenplay writing, production designing and of course, directing.

Awards will also be given for best diaspora production, best animation, best student film and there will even be a Lifetime Achievement Award.
All we pray is that the MC of the night keeps the award-giving moving at a steady and sure pace. It will also be grand if the awards ceremony starts on time and early enough so the process doesn’t lose momentum.

But the Gala Night is only one facet. From December 4th through 8th, the Kalasha International Film Festival will be underway at the IMAX Cinema House where entry will be free. Film screenings will also take place in 13 counties with the venues to be specified sometime later this month.

The times when the selected films will be shown will be announced by next week. But in the meantime, the Film Festival is the best indicator of how far Kalasha has come.

“It was only in 2015 that Kalasha went international and the first film festival took place,” says Ms Gitahi. So this will only be the third year that the KFC has gone forward to organise a festival that all Kenyans can come and enjoy.

Which films will be screened and when is yet to be determined. It will only be announced after the jury has seen all 237 films, but the prospects are good and the festival promises to be one area of growth that could one day transform Nairobi into the ‘film capital’ of East Africa.

Given that Kenya has more film schools and university departments teaching communication and media studies than ever before, there are that many more opportunities to see that possibility realised.

The other factor that is giving Nairobi an edge over other cities in the region is that Kalasha International also established a media market which is attracting prospective buyers to Kenya from all over the world.

So while Nairobi has yet to achieve the status or size of a Sundance or a Cannes Film Festival, thanks to the KFC, Kenya is moving in that direction.

Meanwhile, the Udada and Mama Afrika Film Festival opens this coming Wednesday night, November 7 from 5pm at PAWA254. The festival will run from through November 11. Concurrently, there will be a visual art exhibition and a showcase of literary works by African women writers.