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Local film industry has grown in strides

The local film industry has grown in strides — this was evident at the recent Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA). Faith Kyoumukama takes a look at the vibrant industry

It was a big night for Kenya in Nigeria at the just-concluded Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) that went down in Lagos. The local film industry bagged six awards during the sixth edition of the annual awards gala. The film, 18 Hours, won a total of three awards: Best Overall Movie in Africa and Best Movie in East Africa (Phoebe Ruguru) and Best Picture Editor (Mark Maina). Nyce Wanjeri, popularly known as Shiro for her role in sitcom Auntie Boss, won the Best Actress in a comedy and TV series.

Denis Wanjohi’s The Flesh Business bagged the award for Best Documentary, and Sarika Hemi Lakhani’s film, Supa Modo, winning the Best Indigenous Language movie. Unlike previous editions, Kenya missed out on only two nomination slots; Best Soundtrack and Best Writer.

Last year, 254 took home two AMVCAs while in 2016, to the disappointment of many industry player, we walked away from the table empty-handed, recounts award-winning filmmaker Dennis Wanjohi. “We have come a long way compared to five-10 years ago.

This has reflected on the recent awards gala. For a long time, AMVCA was perennially a West African thing. There is an improvement on story writing an dexecution,’’ shared Wanjohi.

The talent behind the award-winning one-hour documentary, The Flesh Business, that sheds light  on the rampant underage prostitution in Mombasa and the Coast region added, “We are not where we should be, but it is now becoming sustainable. We can now focus on fully making a film.”

The captivating documentary follows the story of three ladies who take the audience through the challenges of their profession. While Nollywood is undoubtedly Nigeria’s gold mine, Kenya is years away from catching up with our West African counterparts.

“The biggest challenge is distribution, people risk and put money into making a film and there is no proper channel for distributing their content. Most productions in Kenya are done for free to air channels. The solution is to figure out the issue on distribution then we will be good to go. I think we have the brains and quality, but what we need is exposure to the wider world.

People shy away from taking a step and taking part in the festival. It’s always worthwhile to submit your name,” he adds. Film director and producer Phoebe Ruguru, who scooped a double win for the film 18 Hours, also intimated that the biggest challenge facing the local film industry is piracy.

“Most Kenyans will not go to the cinemas because it is cheaper to wait and burn a movie at only Sh50 instead of paying more. The piracy levels are prohibitively high — that issue needs to be addressed if the industry is to make more progress in the near future. It is no wonder that many are willing to invest in an industry where the returns are low,” shares  Ruguru.


And as one curtain falls on the just-concluded AMVCA, the spotlight now shines on the fifth edition of Riverwood Academy Awards. The annual awards gala, which was established in 2014 by RiverWood Ensemble Filmmakers Association Secretariat is set to take place in Kisumu city at Acacia Premier Hotel come September 15.

It brings together the entire film industry’s stakeholders and players of the film and TV industry recognising and appreciating best talents in the creative audio/visual and performing arts. The academy awards recently unveiled their nominees, with award-winning films such as Supa Modo, making the cut.

Also bagging five nominations is Tufilamu Pictures; a collective of producers, scriptwriters, editors and directors founded by film director and producer Robert Asimba. Some of the local short films they have produced include Clench: Life of a Creative, which was nominated for the 2018 Zanzibar International Film Festival and has two nominations in the upcoming Riverwood Academy Awards: Best Short Film and Best Original Score. Another notable project they have worked on is the film 1988, which showcases the history of Kenya through the terrifying Nyayo torture era.

The short film is a story  of ordinary Kenyans who dared to stand up to the autocratic regime of the 80s infamous for dealing ruthlessly with any form of dissidence and was too often associated with violent torture at the infamous Nyayo Chambers.

The seventh production by Tufilima Pictures has three nominations in the upcoming Riverwood Academy Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Short Film and Best Film Actor.  Mike Njeru has been nominated for Best Film Actor for his role as Khoti Babu, a 21-year-old law student at the University of Nairobi.

He gets on the wrong the side of the law for bad-mouthing the government and is subjected to brutal treatment. He described his role as a unique experience which has made him appreciate the freedom he enjoys today as a Kenyan. “It took us roughly 14 hours to come up with the short film and while in shooting, I had to switch my mind and try to feel the experience,” he said.

There is no question the stage is set — with films such as Rafiki, Watu Wote, Kati Kati, Nairobi Half Life, 18 Hours, Mully, Supa Modo and The First Grader, among others, captivating audiences all over the globe and gaining recognition from international film festivals.

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