Page 1

FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

2 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Thank you for Positively Impacting Africa

through film


house helps are insensitive to the TV programs the children watch.

would like to use this opportunity to commend the Kenya Film Classification Board for their wonderful “Cleaning the Airwaves” Campaign. For the past three months, the Board has aired radio and television campaigns across the country, urging parents and guardians to ensure their children are watching “decent” content, and to instigate local television stations to air healthy television programs.

The type of films we need in Africa are films that will positively educate our youth, films that will change negative mindsets, and films that will provide solutions to Africa’s myriad of poverty alleviation, sustainable development and more.

Just because you have ensured your film is rated R, or labeled “Not Suitable for persons under the age of 18”, It does not mean, persons under the age of 18 will not watch it. An increasing number of African women are taking up time consuming careers, forcing them to leave their children in the control of poorly educated house helps and a 21” cable television. Unfortunately, the majority of

This edition is a “thank you issue” to various organizations across the continent which use film to positively impact our communities. I wish you a very happy reading.

I also wish to utilize this opportunity to commend “Tri-Vision Uganda”, a ‘Not for Profit’ film organization in Uganda which regularly produces documentaries and features about huOur Television screens have been manitarian and social education issues filled with nasty images for years and in Uganda. the immorality level in our society has sky rocketed in the past 10 years. I wish to commend the Hot Sun FounOnce upon a time, it was literally a dation in Kenya which has used its crime to say swear words, nowadays, premises to educate a large number of it seems to be a norm. The way some youth in Kibera by granting them speof our youth dress, especially girls cial opportunities to manipulate a variranging from ages 10 to age 18 is also ety of cameras and learn the ‘nitty increasingly becoming appalling. gritty’ of film production via their school, the Kibera Film School. The As African producers, and scriptwrit- Hot Sun Foundation also organizes the ers, we need to be extremely cautious annual Slum Film Festival in conjuncwith the type of messages we wish to tion with the Embassy of Spain in disseminate through our films. Kenya, and Film Aid.

Contact me on

3 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Sita Kimya A story of overcoming gender violence in Kibera

By Rafiq Copeland


tors and crew.

he credits role in the crowded tin shed and as the room bursts into conversation, Sam switches off the television. He greets the audience of 25 women and cracks a joke. They have just watched Sita Kimya, a film produced in Kibera, with Kiberan ac-

Sam’s face is familiar. In the film which has just ended he plays the perpetrator of a violent sexual assault. Now he is standing in a room full of women and girls – many of them victims of such violence themselves. But in real life Sam is not the bad guy. Just the opposite - he’s

4 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

here to lead a discussion on sexual and gender based violence. Sam asks the women about the things they have seen in the film. Was a particular character raped? Or was it something else? What could she have done about it? What about another character – what could he have done to stop what was happening? The conversations are lively, punctuated by laughter and rude jokes. But the upbeat mood doesn’t hide the fact that for the women in this audience the subject matter is very serious. Using the Sita Kimya film as a starting point, the women talk about what sexual and gender based violence is – what it means to them. They talk about definitions. They talk about how to report things to the authorities. What evidence is needed. What to do if the perpetrator is your husband. All of these issues are teased out through the stories told in the movie. The conversation turns to the question of whether clothing can be a provocation. One woman – who is wearing a long dress and scarf – suggests that a short skirt might be asking for trouble. Sam sees an opportunity for a telling joke. What about women in Turkana? He asks. They don’t wear anything at all! The room once again bursts into laughter. These are local stories, Kenyan stories, told through local voices. The characters are real to the audience, they know these people – sometimes literally. It is a great thing for Kiberans to see their own stories on

screen. But if these films can make a tangible, positive impact on people’s lives then that is even better. Sita Kimya was produced by FilmAid International as part of a campaign conducted in conjunction with AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance II and Population Services International. The idea was to use film as a way to explore the issues and begin conversations which can otherwise be difficult to have. Not all of the answers are in the film itself – sexual and gender based violence is too complicated for that. But the stories are there, waiting to be discussed. The use of film to promote ideas of social justice, safety regulations and healthcare has been driving FilmAid’s work in Kenya for ten years now. Most of their efforts have concentrated in the refugee camps of Kakuma and Dadaab – but more recently FilmAid have been working with a wider Kenyan audience as well. With more Kenyan stories being told, and more conversations started, this can only be a good beginning FilmAid is currently screening Sita Kimya for focus audiences twice a day in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Each screening is followed by a discussion led by a trained mediator.

For more information visit:

5 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

The Kibera Film School Bringing Education to the Slums with Mercy Murugi

The Kibera Film School students: Class of 2010 Courtesy:

“Togetherness Supreme “was to train the youth of Kibera, where the film is based on all aspects of filmmaking. We had been working with the same youth in the development of the script. When we wrapped, we saw the need to create a training program for both We caught up with one of the founders the youth we had worked with on the of the School, Miss Mercy Murugi film and others who might have the who opened up about their drive and talent and interest in filmmaking. dreams to make this school a success . Film Biz Africa: What inspired you to Film Biz Africa: When did you start build the school in Kibera of all this noble project? places? The Kibera Film School is rapidly becoming one of the most popular and credible institutions of education in Kenya regardless of the fact it is located in the middle of one of the largest slums in the world.

Mercy: Kibera Film School was started in August 2009 after the production of our award winning first feature film “Togetherness Supreme”. Our vision during the conception of

Mercy: Hot Sun Films have a special connection with Kibera. Our first film, the short film “Kibera Kid “was shot in Kibera. In as much as it was meant to be a student project, the film got a

6 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

lot of publicity, won awards and drew the world’s attention to Kibera in a different light – a place where hidden talent abounds. Kibera gets a lot of publicity for all the wrong reasons. Only until recently has the media begun to highlight other aspects of Kibera. It is our intention to train a generation of youth that can tell stories about their community in a way that only they can, and use the power of media to transform their society. Filmmaking is an expensive venture and so is the training. The youth in slums, including Kibera, despite talent and interest, cannot afford the fees charged by film schools in Kenya. The idea was, still is, to provide very high quality training, using state of the art equipment and industry standard software, at a very low cost to the youth. When we first started, we even gave

the students stipends, as most of our students were either single parents or breadwinners in their households. We have since stopped the stipends as our funding comes to an end. However, our long-term goal is to replicate what we have going at Kibera Film School to other informal settlements, not only in Kenya but also across Africa. Film Biz Africa: How many students have benefited from your school? Mercy: Each year, through a rigorous application process, we select 12 students. This is to ensure that the students have access to the resources at the school without overcrowding. We are in the 3rd year now. This year, we opened up the school to paying public. We now have full time classes and part time classes. Closely linked to Kibera Film School is Kibera TV.

A Kibera Film School trainee: Courtesy:

7 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

This is a citizen journalism project that collects news and features from Kibera and posts the videos on YouTube. The videos also broadcast on Kenya Bus screens in various routes in Nairobi in collaboration Roma Media. Kibera TV original members were alumni of the first Kibera Film School class in 2010. They trained other youth from Kibera on basics of filmmaking – a crash course of you like. These youth then recruited more reporters and Kibera TV grew to over 10 reporters in less than 3 months. Currently, Kibera TV does both news pieces and a production department that works with organizations to produce co-operate videos, documentaries, commercials, etc, but at very affordable costs suing the same hi-tech equipment. Kibera TV has become so successful that we have students from public and private universities and colleges wanting to intern with us. Film Biz Africa: How is the school run (on donations from well wishers, school fees, support organizations, fundraising events)? Mercy: Our main funding comes from Africalia in Belgium. We have however come to an end of our 3-year funding cycle. Opening up the school to paying public, commercial projects done by Kibera TV, are some of the ways we will be funding the school.

We also receive donations from our supporters via Global Giving Profits from our film, Togetherness Supreme will also be put towards the school. Film Biz Africa: How do you envisage the school in the near future? Mercy: My vision for the school is for it to be self-sufficient. I would like to not have to worry where our next funding is going to come from. This can be achieved if we are able to increase the resources we have right now, to a level that allows us to take in more paying students. Which ironically, calls for more people to give / support the school. I would also like to see our students make films that not only win awards (which has happened) but also make money from those films. Starting a Kibera Film School in another part of Kenya, especially in the ignored and marginalized communities is a vision that we have. Film Biz: In what way would you like Africa and the rest of the world to assist the Kibera Film School? Support the work of the students, buy their work, and talk about it to their friends, donate. Follow their work on twitter - @slumfilmschool and @kiberatv, kiberaschool and

8 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

9 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Displaced, Discarded, and Desperate: A Story of an African Community in India With Trupti Shah


tion Cubs of Giir. . .

ife is difficult and future is unpredictable. It’s impossible to tell what is in store ahead. In a precarious situation like this what keeps us going is Hope. But how does one live without hope?

FilmBiz: What inspired you to produce this documentary?

Their story seemed similar to mine at the first casual look. I am an Indian born and brought up in Africa and they are Africans born and staying in Siddi, in India is one such community India. I could easily empathize with that has been living without hope. them. But the similarity ended there. I Brought in as slaves from modern day was staying in Africa but keeping the Kenya and Tanzania this community Indian heritage alive. I know where is lost in the mosaic of different culmy ancestors come from in India, I tures and is now struggling at the mar- can talk in my native language, I celegins of the Indian society. This 20brate Indian festivals, have Indian minute documentary provides an infood, visit India once in a while and sight into Siddi lifestyle and focuses proudly call myself “ OF INDIAN on the educational system and the fu- ORIGIN ’. ture of their children These Africans cannot do any of these. FilmBiz Africa Magazine recently had So I decided to tell their story through the privilege of interviewing film pro- this documentary. duction couple Pranay Gorodia and Trupti Shah about their latest produc-

10 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

FilmBiz: How is the reception in the market been so far? The film was selected for 4 film festivals. Zanzibar International Film Festival, Kenya International Film Festival, Aljazeera Documentary Film Festival and Docutah. We had a screening at Fort Jesus 2 month back and it was packed. We haven’t been able to hold other screenings as yet but we are trying. Whoever has seen the film is amused and the response has been overwhelming.

not carry work home and leave it behind at the office. The couple should never let professional or creative differences at work, creep in personal life. FilmBiz: Do you have a production company? If so, what is it called and how do you envisage it in near future?

I don’t have a production company and both of us freelance. Lack of a production company does not deter us and we are already set to make another documentary on music in India. The FilmBiz: What advice do you have for day we feel the need of having a comspouses jointly working on producpany, we shall have it. tions in Africa? To order a copy of this documentary Its great to work with your spouse and feel free to get in touch with either the comfort level is high but there Trupti Shah or Pranay Garodia on must be a thin line dividing sional and personal life. They should

Filming on the set of Cubs of Gir. Courtesy: Trupti Shah

11 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Women in Film With Betti Ellerson, (Director of the Centre Director of the Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema)

FilmBiz Africa Magazine caught up with Beti Ellerson, the Director of the Center for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema, here’s what the PHD holder and Howard University Alumni had to say. FilmBiz: Tell us about the Centre for African Women in Cinema, what inspired you to start this initiative? Beti: The Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema serves as a repository for the dissemination of information for the study and documentation of African women in cinema, to advance research and communication relating to African women in cinema and to promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas, experiences and resources. The inspiration for the Centre came about in several stages. When I began my graduate work in African Studies in the late 1980s, “African cinema studies” was just emerging in the United States with the publication of books and scholarly articles and the increasing availability of African films to view and analyze. As my studies evolved around African development, women/gender and culture, I realized very early that African films would be a very useful tool for my research. I undertook a subspecialization in African cinema and after completing my doctoral studies, enrolled in video production courses at the local community television where I was later host/producer of a 27-episode series on the world of

12 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

cinema by people of color that aired in have been many ways that African the Washington DC area from 1997 to women have benefited from this initia2000. tive. Moreover, the public, both general and specialized, have also found it During the same period as a postuseful. As a centre for study and redoctoral fellow from a Rockefeller search, concerned individuals have Humanities Fellowship during the been able to use the online resources 1996-1997 academic year, I did reto search information regarding scholsearch on Africa women in cinema. In arship, specific films, links to websites many ways this research was an offof African women, a timeline of Afrishoot of my Ph.D. dissertation on Af- can women in cinema and a primer for rican women and visual representaAfrican Women Cinema Studies, tion. The Rockefeller Fellowship reamong other features. As a result, the search culminated in the book and initiative has been an important instrudocumentary film: “Sisters of the ment for promoting, profiling and supScreen�, published in 2000, and com- porting the work of African women of pleted in 2002, respectively. Soon the moving image. The Centre reafter the release of the film in 2003 by ceives daily inquiries ranging from the internationally celebrated New contact information for a filmmaker, York-based distributor Women Make how to get access to a certain film, Movies, I applied for funding to desuggestions for films for a film festivelop a website as a teaching and val, to name some of the most frelearning project, created in 2004. Four quent. As the director of the Centre, I years later in 2008, the Centre for the have been invited to speak and write Study and Research of African about the history of African women in Women in Cinema was launched. cinema. So I have active, hands-on Wanting to keep step with the evolv- involvement where I actually feel that ing developments on the Internet, the I am participating in the ongoing evoAfrican Women in Cinema Blog follution of this history as it happens. lowed the next year, along with the African Women in Cinema Channel An initiative that has been incredibly on YouTube and the Centre’s Facesuccessful is the African Women in book Page and presence on Twitter. Cinema Blog, a public forum for the Centre. While the Centre website is As technology continues to advance in more data-based, the Blog is a dythe second decade of the twenty-first namic space where interviews, upcentury, the Centre will play an even dates, video-sharing links, announcegreater role as forerunner in innovaments for film festivals and confertive networking and cutting-edge reences, call for papers and films, film search on African women in cinema. analysis and current information are shared. Moreover, there is an index to FilmBiz: Do you feel this initiative all the posts, serving as an archive for has benefited several African women newcomers who want to read past in Cinema? If so, how? posts. At the same time, the Blog is a vehicle through which women in cinBeti: Yes, I am happy to say that there ema may share their experiences. I

13 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

often get feedback from them saying how they have been able to learn about so many other women that they had not yet met or even known about.

there are no plans to include Caribbean and African-American Women in Cinema—unless they have a specific focus on African cinema. I do realize as the Diaspora transforms, FilmBiz: How many countries are that this designation becomes increasyou in, and do you intend to expand ingly complicated. For example, this initiative to Africans in the Dias- women born and raised outside of pora ( including Caribbean Women in Africa to African parents or an AfriFilm and African American Women) can parent are included in the category in Film? of African women in cinema. The reason for this choice is twofold, they Beti: Well, because the Centre funcoften share an “African identity” tions within a virtual environment, the within the African household that they only location to which it is physically grow up or with the African parent attached is where I live at the moment, with whom they share their African which is in the United States in Wash- subjectivity, and also, I am interested ington, DC. Of course when I travel, I in continuing the African history that take all the related apparatus, which evolves within these Diasporic spaces, allows the Centre to continue to oper- i.e. how these women deal with and ate. However, there are future plans tackle issues of duality, transnationalfor affiliation and collaboration with ity, and the meaning of home. other institutions, which, while continuing to function virtually, will have what may be considered as specified Feel free to contact Beti on africanlocations. womenincinema@africanwomenincin or visit For the reason of wanting to work for within a certain scope, for the moment more details about the centre and how

14 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

The Woman Without Limits Carol Nguta (CEO Dream House Productions Ltd)

FilmBiz Africa: How does it feel being one of the only female Executive Producers in the country? Carol Nguta: Honestly, I have never looked at it that way. I guess I have always just followed my heart by doing what I enjoy doing mostmaking films. However, I do recognize that film in Kenya is a male dominated industry but I believe God is opening many doors and opportunities for us women.

FilmBiz Africa: What does Dream House Productions stand for? What are your missions, visions and goals?

duction outfit that aims to showcase the enormous untapped talent that in Kenya, and not only do we showcase talents in Kenya, we envision a time in Kenya when artists will be able to make a decent living by doing what they love doing. After all art is a God given talent and I strongly believe just like any other profession, artists should and can make a decent living from acting and film.

FilmBiz Africa: Tell us about your upcoming blockbuster “Shattered� Shattered was born out of a need to confront pertinent issues facing our society and our youth in particular.

Dream House is a professional pro-

15 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

The aim of this film is to instigate people with underlying problems to come out openly, seek help and find solutions to the problems. FilmBiz Africa: What inspired you to feature Rita Dominic in this film and how was the experience? I’ve always enjoyed watching Rita on TV, but there was something about her that drew me to her and I must say my instincts were not wrong and that we made a very good decision in choosing to work with her. Rita was very willing to learn, had a great personality and was fun to work with.

FilmBiz Africa: As a Kenyan Producer, what do you feel Kenyans can learn from the Nigerian film industry? Carol Nguta: One thing the Nigerian film industry has taught us is that we should tell our traditional stories in our films: stories that relate with every day people and every day issues. FilmBiz Africa: What advice do you have for other African film producers wishing to come to Kenya for coproductions? Carol Nguta: Karibuni Sana! You are most welcome to Kenya. I believe we can do so much more if we join hands and posiCarol Nguta and her husband Victor Nguta during the premier of her film shattered

L-R: Award winning Nigerian actress Rita Dominic, Salome Terome and Mumbi Maina

16 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

17 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

The First Grader An Inspiring Story about the Power of Education


n a small, remote, mountain-top primary school in the Kenyan bush, hundreds of children are jostling for a chance at the free education newly promised by the Kenyan government. One applicant causes astonishment when he knocks on the door of the school. He is Kimani Maruge (Oliver Litondo), a Mau Mau veteran in his 80s, who is desperate to learn to read at this stage of his life. He fought for the liberation of his country and now feels he must have the chance of an education so long denied—even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside 6-year-olds.

colonial rule 50 years earlier when Maruge fought for the freedom of his country, eventually enduring the extreme and harsh conditions of the British detention camps. Sam Feuer graciously gave FilmBiz Africa a few minutes of his time to satisfy the curiosity of its audiences.

Moved by his passionate plea, head teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris) supports his struggle to gain admission, facing fierce opposition from parents and officials who don’t want to waste a precious school place on such an old man.

FilmBiz Africa: This Film is clearly one of the best productions from Africa this year, congratulations on that. How long did it take during preproductions, production and post production? Sam: Thank you for that. It means a lot. Took us 5 years from the day we Based on a true story, The First found he article on the front page of Grader explores the remarkable rela- the LA Times until we had our World tionships Maruge builds with his Premiere... Pre-production was a few classmates some 80 years his junior months, we shot the film in 36 days with vitality and humor. Through Ma- and post lasted about 5 months until ruge's journey, we are taken back to we were ready to screen a rough cut. the shocking untold story of British

18 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Sam: Wow! It’s Never Too Late To Dream, right?!... And we believe too. The support has been amazing. If we won an Oscar, it would show the industry that you can produce a movie about Africa, shoot it in Africa on a small budget and still maintain that universal appeal to the rest of the world. And you mentioned the quality of the film earlier. That would be the case with not just THE FIRST GRADER, but any truly amazing, inspiring story, anywhere in the world. FilmBiz Africa: There have been disputes that this film is a Kenyan story packaged as an American product, what is your take on that? Sam: The film is a Kenyan story made by the Kenyans. We had a small team of 9, that came mostly from the FilmBiz Africa: What was your UK and South Africa. The only budget like if you do not mind divulg- American element here is that Richard ing? What was your budget like (if and myself are American, but Richard you do not mind divulging)? It seems is from Sierre Leone and I am from like a high end production? Israel. Oh wait, Ann Peacock does have a US passport, although she is a Sam:It seems like a high end produc- South African native. What struck me tion? We're very happy it does. It only about the true story was how the entire seems like that because we had an arc was already laid out like a movie amazing creative team headed by our so the great thing was that we just director Justin Chadwick. From my needed to tell the story straight up like producing partners, Richard Harding it happened and not dramatize too and David Thompson to Ann Peacock much or present it as you say, like an to the crew, everyone who worked on American product. It's universal. this film, worked out of passion to tell this story the best way we could. We FilmBiz Africa: What was the ultimate got made for just under $5M. goal of this film? FilmBiz Africa: There have been cam- Sam: For me, and my producing partpaigns to get this film to the Oscars, if ners, the ultimate goal was to produce a movie that was held at the highest it eventually does reach the Oscars, and wins an Oscar, how do you feel it standards of film-making whilst inwill be of benefit to Kenya and to the spiring audiences with a story that felt authentic to its roots, but moved them, rest of Africa? no matter where they are in the world.

19 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Film as an Export Promotion Commodity With Jonathan Chifallu

(Public Relations executive at EPZ Authority Kenya)

Nollywood stars: (L-R) Monalisa Chinda, Desmond Eliott, Uche Jombo, Patience (MAM G) Ozokwor, John Okafor (Mr Ibu) and the late Sam Loco at the 2011 Nollywood Roadshow, Nairobi Kenya. Photo by Collins Chinonse


boost their nations annual foreign earnings.

n June 2011, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) in conjunction with Nollywood and the Nigeria High Commission to Kenya held a 7day road show to promote the Nigerian Film industry in Kenya. David Adulugba, the NEPC’s Executive Director told journalists the show was geared towards enhancing the nations foreign earnings though an export other than oil.

Many African governments have wondered how they can use film to

The answer lies here. According to Jonathan Chifallu, the Public Relations Executive of EPZ Kenya, an export promotion commodity is a product manufactured in an industrial enclave upon which the government gives investment incentives. Some of these incentives include waivers on duty, tax holidays, building industrial infrastructure, and offering facilitative services to inves-

20 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

tors who operate in such zones. They are required to incorporate, produce and manufacture exportable products and services

labor and contingency fees. This usually sums up to millions of shillings even billions sometimes as income to the Kenyan economy.

Film, by virtue is an export promotion good. When an international film is being shot in a country, it attracts a large international cast and crew hence attracts a lot of international attention. Moreover, film has a way of bringing tourists into the country due to the world wide exposure it gives the host country. Without a doubt, tourism attracts significant levels of foreign spending on local services.

Furthermore, out of all 54 African countries, Kenya is one of the most beautiful, organized and technologically advantaged countries in the entire continent. For that reason, thousands of Multi-national Company advertorials have been shot in Kenya and distributed across the globe.

For example, when an international film is shot in Kenya (especially Hollywood films), income is generated through work permit fees, hotel fees, transport fees, catering fees, local

To top the icing on the cake, the Government of Kenya has put a zero rating on duty taxes on film equipment in the country, making Kenya one of the best and most affordable places to set up a film production studio in Africa!

21 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

The Man Behind the Magic

Charles Asiba, Wole Soyinka and Jim Shamoon pose for a photo prior to the Wole Soyinka Interactive forum


he Kenya International Film Festival (KIFF) Trust was conceived in 2006 by Charles Asiba. For more than two months, Asiba conducted intensive research on Kenya’s film industry and vigorously publicized KIFF. During the first KIFF, 30 films were submitted and forwarded to a jury of professional film makers and were later screened at the Alliance Francaise .

by training.

“It is the pan-African spirit that inspired me to create the Kenya International Film Festival. This year, KIFF has received more than 500 entries from more than 52 countries across the world. Before KIFF, I was in charge of the Market for African Programs (MAP TV) at URTNA. The program was a market platform for Africans to buy and sell broadcast content. After I and FilmBiz Africa Magazine recently had a couple of other veterans left the privilege to interview one of the URTNA, many people thought key players in Kenya’s film industry: URTNA died. To be candid, URTNA Charles Asiba. He is the Founder and is very much alive, but is now popuDirector of the annual Kenya Interna- larly known as the ‘African Union of tional Film Festival, a former ProBroadcasters’ (AUB). grams Manager at the Union of Radio Last year, they had the rights to teleand Television in Africa (URTNA) vise the world cup and any public TV and a professional Fashion Designer station that wanted to air the world

22 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

cup had to purchase it from them!

and I answered, Riverwood.

However, having worked for URTNA for a number of years, and making good contacts with Africans across the world, I decided to venture into my own project, hence KIFF. The Kenya International Film Festival is a platform which promotes local productions globally. The uniqueness of KIFF is that, it is the only festival that screens in 5 cities across the country simultaneously (i.e. Kisumu, Mombassa, Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret).

Visit River-road one of these fine days and have a look how thousands of local filmmakers are earning decent figures from their films. The quality of the films may not be excellent, but the stories are interesting.

KIFF is about supporting and nurturing Cinema in Kenya. This year, KIFF teamed up with renowned Kenyan Fashion designer Lucy Rao, conducted the African Fashion Week.

What is the point of going into production if you cannot live off it? Having run this festival for close to 6 years now, my advise to local film makers is to be more creative in screen writing. Many local films are tailored like stage plays. I am fully aware that the reason is because a large number of local film makers have a back ground in theatre.

Local film makers need to realize that there is a huge difference between theatre and film, and once that is done, I strongly believe that fashion and film the sky is our limit. go hand in hand; actors and actresses usually don designer wear, and deThis year, over seven Nollywod stars signer depend on actors and actresses were flown in to Kenya courtesy of to promote their products, so it’s a the Nigerian Film Censorship Board quid-pro quo situation. and the Kenya International Film Festival. Nigerian Literary Giant Wole I am also responsible for the name Soyinka also flew in for an interactive “Riverwood”. forum with local filmmakers, lecturNot long ago, I once put a stand for ers, students, and interested individuall the Nollywood films we received als. for one of the MAP TV events and labeled it Nollywood. I labeled the The Sixth edition of the Kenya Interexhibition stand for local film makers national Film Festivals (KIFF), 2011 ‘Riverwood’ and somehow, the name closed in style with The First Grader stuck. scooping an award for the best feature film. I believe, for a film culture to grow in Kenya, it needs a brand name– hence For more on the Kenya International Riverwood. I was once interviewed on Film Festival visit: KTN and was asked what the solution to Kenya’s dwindling film industry is

23 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Prof. Wole Soyinka calls for the establishment of an African Union Film Fund. By Desmond Orjiako


ddressing participants on Wednesday, October 26, at the 2011 Kenya International Film Festival (KIFF) in Nairobi, Africa’s Nobel Laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka urged the African Union to create an African fund for film. But the appeal appears to have suffered oversight as the mass media hardly picked up the story from this perspective or reported it as it was part of remarks he made at an interactive session at the Nigeria Day Flag Off sponsored by the Nigeria National and Video

Censor’s Board in collaboration with the Kenya International Film festival. “The Film industry is a serious business worth investing in” stated Wole Soyinka. “Nollywood movie has raised its stake to a black film industry thus impacting on people’s culture, diplomacy, business and entertainment”, he added. Africa is perceived in the global media as one monolithic culture in which everybody is seen as the same. Yet there are commonalities and differences in culture, marking the uniqueness of people, one from the other, even when found within one country or the

24 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

same demographic region. Many features of Nigerian life according to Soyinka are recommendable to Kenya, such as ‘naming ceremony’, now shown in movies and not just as stories in books. He noted that there have been attempts to mock the calamities and mimic events in Africa but through the African film industry, things can be changed by faithfully reporting facts and committing seriously to hard work as a means of turning film to a money minting industry in the competitive world market. Having been selected to moderate the day’s discussion one feels obliged to underscore the importance of Soyinka’s statement having had little time at the occasion to do so. Not only that an African Union Fund for film when established will enable producers and filmmakers, actors and actresses and others concerned to make more quality films, create more job opportunities and tell the African Story better from an African perspective, but as well, it will assist to positively change mindsets through film. The African Union Film fund can also help to build an Institute for Visual and Performing Arts, where students from all over Africa can study fine arts, music, theatre arts and film technology. These are disciplines in which many Africans are highly competitive world-wide and can better serve their interests and win

greater recognition and relevance as depicted In the person of Wole Soyinka himself. Film raises human value, be it in music, education or art. It serves as a mechanism for enhancement of ethics, mores and culture. Film is used to promote social justice, safety regulations and health care among other deliverables. Africa gets more than its fair share of negative publicity and is often making headlines for the wrong reasons, sometimes not out of its own making but often due to powerlessness in the onslaught of new communication technologies. Application of a powerful medium such as film, therefore, can create a generational change in youth through training. They learn and tell their own stories about their communities in their own way. African Union Film Fund (AUFF) if established can help reduce costs of film production and engagement in expensive film training business tours carried out abroad, even if post production and standard software procurement and equipment are still to be fetched from abroad at the moment. But for how long should this continue? Should Africans continue to go overseas cap in hand begging for everything including funds to make African films? Do we not in the process lose intellectual property and as well, compromise quality and content of African films? How does one feel when one finishes a master piece of

25 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

work and someone else is given credit? If the answer is a sense of denial, then, a kind of bailout fund for African actors is absolutely necessary to keep the African film Industry authentically African. Film, is the best interpersonal communication channel and the most effective medium to bring about positive changes in Africa. Film watching culture has become a daily routine in many African homes within the continent and beyond. Watching African films has acquired extra prominence within the Diaspora also as events which concern Africa connect with their lives. Because film combines audio-visual, drama, music, cartoons, dance, name it, to accomplish infotainment and edutainment, this is only possible with face-to-face communication complete with body language. It has become the most powerful medium of vividly expressing events and things that otherwise would be difficult to express without running afoul of the law and facing the consequence. Film appeals to the public, high and low and as such is a userfriendly tool to promote Africa’s global socio-economic and cultural standing in a world mostly misinformed about Africa and yearning to know the truth about its peoples’ living conditions. Prof. Soyinka challenged young people to use their imagination and apply their intellect to recreate the lives of heroes through making films and home videos with Afri-

can orientation with the aim of countering the distraction from reading and watching films brought from outside. Prof. Soyinka’s appeal for establishing an African Union Film Fund is, therefore, timely and underscores the importance of film business in Africa. His appeal resonates with the remarks of Kenya’s Vice-President, Dr. Kalonzo Musyoka while addressing the Fifth Session of this Annual Kenya International Film Festival last year. Musyoka at the event said that through film, Kenya netted forty billion shillings; (KSh. 40 bn) created 250,000 jobs and has opportunity to become the film making hub and film distribution destination of Africa, arguing that the country had justified its determination to lead in the film industry having already achieved 40% local content in its film industry. He expressed hope that with migration to digital broadcasting in 2012, Kenyans should endeavor to overtake South Africa and Nigeria, which he noted, have set the pace for others. He assured that the Kenyan Government will do its part by providing the necessary conducive work environment, build more television channels and provide the legal framework to prevent piracy which militated against intellectual property ownership, all in efforts to enable Kenyans tell their own story through film. Like the European Union, the former Organization of African Union (OAU) had a cultural fund

26 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

with which it assisted African countries visited by natural disasters such as flooding, draught, and famine. If the African Union has established such a fund, the impact is either not felt or recognized, hence the opportunity avails itself for the establishment of the proposed African Union Film Fund. Furthermore, Soyinka’s ideas and thoughts have helped shape opinion in the world but have not much to show for it in Africa. This perhaps is because his ideas are seen by many to be radical and often challenging the failure of democratic leadership. After listening to Soyinka live, I am delighted to describe him as one of the greatest African icons, having while alive, earned a special place of distinction as a philosopher, as a playwright and as one who used his time and pen to fight despotism and to entrench social justice for the underprivileged in Africa. It is on this note I enjoin Soyinka to continue the noble course in helping to make Africa a better place for the next generation while urging the African Union to hasten and establish the African Film Fund. The author was a Former Spokesman of the African Union

27 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

A Film Business Mogul in the Making

Jonathan Mnyela In 2009, while I was a University student, I came up with a business idea which I registered as ‘Opt Media Information Solutions’ with the slogan ‘Revitalizing your Industry’. My partners and I decided to operate as business consultants in the Film Industry. 10 years ago, TanJonathan Mneyela relax- zania was a heavy ing in Tanzania consumer of Bollywood films, Hollywood, and the I believe Film is about creativity and popular Nigerian movies also known 'believability'. I am of the opinion as Nollywood. At the time, the mathat for an audience to like a film it jority of Tanzania's finest producers, depends on the quality of the story, actors, and directors, emerged after the quality of acting, and the clear a production called Kaole. depiction of reality in the film. I also think script writing is a very important phase in film production, because it is the process of converting our thoughts into words, and mobilizing our words into audio-visual. This is an area I personally spend a lot of time in, it is my number one ‘comfort zone’ About my initiative and how it can boost Tanzania’s Film Industry:

After the production of Kaole – which was more or less a Nollywood style Film, a large number of Tanzanians took interest in Film production and came up with their own productions leading to the birth of Tanzania’s film industry. On a professional level, I saw this as “un-original”. We as Tanzanians failed to devise our own taste of films using our own benchmark.

28 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Ironically, Soap Operas have become so popular in Tanzania because of the continuity of the storyline and the steady employment opportunity it has offered several local actors and actresses. Opt Media Information Solutions created a model that helps in boosting the industry. We have created and defined our own film-rating standards which aims at reorienting film production in Tanzania, from the stages of concept development, preand post- production to marketing and distribution.

pre-production, production and post production. I believe Tanzania's film industry is growing at an exceptional rate. We are slowly catching up with Nigeria’s Nollywood, and soon, we will be ahead of them. Our industry is full of opportunities for producers, directors, script writers, actors, actresses and of course film distributors. Currently, Tanzania releases more than 10 quality films on a monthly basis. However, many producers and investors do not care about the quality of the films they churn out, but about how much they can make out of every film they release.

Our model is borrowed from Hollywood film releases. We did a case study on the black film genre in the US market and world market, and In my opinion, this is “a killer attifrom this research we have devised tude� and it just creates an unsatismodels of film scripts that we will be fied audience because there is nothusing to set the tone of screen-writing ing new to learn from each film rein Tanzania which will be effective lease. from late February 2012 onwards. The main challenge that is currently On recommending Bongowood as a facing Tanzania film industry is piracy as a result of dishonest distribulucrative area of investment: tors in the market. Unfortunately, if I strongly do recommend investment no laws are enforced, piracy will in the Tanzanian film industry. We continue to be a major hindrance to have several opportunities that are the growth of the film industry. yet to be tapped into in the local film industry. The only secret here is to Nevertheless, the competition is produce something unique and differ- becoming stiff as many more people ent. For an investor to enjoy the fruits are producing films in Tanzania. of their investment in Tanzania, they must be creative, innovative also be die hard entrepreneurs during

Jonathan Mnyele is the CEO of Opt Media Information Solutions, and the creator:

29 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Fighting color discrimination through Film


n Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital city, Salim faces constant and severe discrimination and has to beg on the streets to survive. In a remote village in the beautiful, lush lake region, Semeni and Shida, sisters with Albinism live in constant fear for their lives. Their sister Eunice was murdered because she had albinism. The family is under constant threat. Eventually Semeni and Shida’s family have to flee their village because of threats. They visit Eunice’s grave for the last time a sad final goodbye with a touching funeral chant. Fearing for the lives of their children with albinism, their parents shelter them at the Mitindo School for the blind, where Manyasi, is a student with albinism. His sister Mariam was also killed and his family tells stories, traditions and beliefs mired in superstition about albinism that lead to the killings. White and Black: Crimes of Colour also features people like Al-Shayma Kway Geer who are rising up to challenge the past and change the present. Al-Shayma is a woman with albinism who has been appointed to be a member of parliament by the President of Tanzania. She says. “I never dreamed I would ever be a leader because growing up, I never saw an albino leader.” She aims change that and to

use her newly acquired position to improve the status of persons with albinism. Hadjra Badru is another courageous woman with albinism. She dared to participate in a beauty contest in a region where discrimination against persons with albinism is fierce. She seems determined to succeed despite other people’s prejudices and challenge perceptions of beauty and attractiveness. In Tanzania the trials of some of the murderers of PWA have started, but most are awaiting trial. None of the buyers of body parts in any of the cases has been identified. They are presumably still in the business of buying and selling body parts. Directed by Canadian– Swiss researcher Jean-François Méan , produced by Greg Dummett and Louis Laverdière, visit for details on how to purchase your copy of this film.

30 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Rwanda’s Almond Tree Films promises quality By Joseph Njattah


ecently, all roads were headed to the Embassy of United States of America Kigali. Movie lovers had gathered at the Embassy Multi- Purpose Room to celebrate an evening of films. The films were commissioned by the Tribeca Film Institute and produced by Almond Tree Films Ltd, to represent Rwanda at their premiere These films are Lyiza, Saa-Ipo and Shema. They were directed by youthful Rwandan filmmakers, Marie DUSABEJABO, Jean Luc HABYARIMANA and Kayambi MUSAFIRI respectively. The films were professionally written, adhering to the three-act struc-

ture of a great story – beginning, middle and end. Character development was successfully done. The end of every movie screening was met with thunderous applause a good indication that directors concerned had done their homework well. In the Q/A session afterwards the young Rwandan directors proved engaging, frank and open. The company traces its origins back to 2004 when a team of young people, HARVESTERS from Hong Kong came to Rwanda during their summer mission through YWAM Rwanda ministries. They discovered great talents in harvesters youth ministry. At the end of their trip, they went back with a commitment to support the young people they had

31 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

met. One of the team leaders, Valerie Chu, later married Lee Isaac Chung a film director based in Brooklyn, New York. Valerie shared with her husband the story of these young peopletheir potential and talents. In May 2006, Isaac and his wife Valerie decided to travel back to Rwanda and train young people who were part of the drama team and harbored interests in video and film production. After training, Isaac supervised the team in realizing the first film, MUNYARUGABO which in 2007 was an official selection of the Cannes film festival (France). It later played at Toronto International Film Festival (Canada), Berlin Film Festival (Germany), and won the grand prize at the AFI Festival (Los Angeles) After filming MUNYURAGABO, this group of Rwandan- trained filmmakers began to apply what they had learned and formed Almond Trees Films Limited. Speaking to the audience, Melanie. L. Edwards, the U.S Embassy public affairs officer reaffirmed the embassy commitment to support the local industry. “We are excited that this evening you choose to join us in supporting Rwandan filmmaking and celebrating the work of Almond Tree Films Ltd” she said.

we need more qualified trainers as many young people are still joining us. Lastly, our culture is also a challenge. Many youth prefer white collar jobs and sometimes parents and leaders are not fully convinced that film industry is just like any other field’’. I also asked him what he felt after being selected to represent Rwanda at the prestigious 4th talent Campus in Durban South Africa. ‘’I am very proud to be my country’s eye and I wish we were many. I learnt a lot from different participants from all Africa and beyond who I met there. This marks a milestone in my filmmaking career’’ Almond Tree Films promises to change the face of Rwandan cinema by producing quality films. They argue that, the industry is currently dotted with low quality productions. Script development is one of the areas that they want to put a lot of emphasis on. Almond Tree Films Company is partially sustainable through its clientele work (weddings, ceremonies, church videos, advertisements, music videos) and also relies on grants and donations from generous contributors. The writer is an Admin Assistant at KWETU Film Institute

I caught up with Richard MUGWANEZA, a film director who edited the three short films to ask about the film production process and possible bottlenecks, ‘’Our main challenge is finances; our goal seems to be greater than our means. Secondly,

32 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

A celebration of “Raw” Talent With Jules Hartley


aw talent.

That’s what was boldly on display at the inaugural Slum FilmFestival…a thick urban jungle, a ripe discarded heap, a deep untapped murky-gray river of untapped talent. On the Kamukunji Open Grounds stage in Kibera, I witnessed abundant energy, love, and joy exchanged from dozens of performers to the large crowds who came to check out the

festival. Flocks of Kiberans were entertained, educated, and delighted by the MC-led performances and award-winning film screenings after sunset. I was particularly delighted by the live performances on display each afternoon during the “open mic” sessions, a sort of urban-slum vaudeville show where MCs, dancers, spoken word artists, comedians and other variety performers were given the chance to come strut their stuff. One of my favorite acts was

33 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Kibera Hamlets, a collective of athletic boys who have worked out an ultra-creative series of acrobatics, contortionist feats and multi-level moving human pyramids.


The premise of the three-project curriculum was simple: tell us about yourself, your world, and finally create a story that reflects your life here (Can someone come manage this won- in Kibera. Having been a working derfully dedicated tribe of youths? actress for 7 years, I was thrilled to With a little bit of polishing, I predict have the chance to impart some of my their future to be ripe with opportuknowledge of film production to these nity: a world-tour, Broadway, US talk- Kiberans! Over the course of the shows or perhaps a gig at one of the class, I was able to touch upon many Disney Theme Parks‌) topics with which I am familiar. These included theme, character, As Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera is a storyboarding, through-line, dramatic hotbed for moving, dramatic narrastructure, heroic arc and finding cometives of violence and hope, tears and dic moments. love. I was touched by the strength of the characters projected onto the big Of course we got to screen the film screen each evening. projects from the workshop on the closing night of the Fest. As images Men, women and perhaps most poign- flashed on the big blow-up screen, ant were the stories of the children hundreds of children sat with eyes depicted in the films -- characters aglow -- all touched by the magic of navigating the daily realities of exispure, raw talent. And hopefully, tence in this unique community, where thanks to the platform that the Slum resources are stretched and survival is Film Festival provided, that talent will a shared experience. go on to create even more amazing films in years to come. Kibera Film School (part of Hotsun Foundation) are truly fantastic oppor- Jules Hartley is an actress from Hollytunities for the youths of Kibera who wood, California, USA. She came to apply to attend. When given a little Kenya this August to volunteer with bit of guidance and the basic digital HotSun Foundation and Kibera Film equipment necessary to produce films, School. More about Jules can be the results are really rather thrilling. found on her website: I witnessed this opportunity that HotSun provides first-hand, as I was blessed with the occasion to teach at the Kibera Film School’s 4-day filmmaking workshop that was part of the Fest. We had 8 university-aged participants, and over the course of a long weekend the first-time filmmakers created a total of 10 really cool

34 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Introducing Kenya’s Youngest Filmmaker:

Jeff Mohammed

Inset: Jeff Mohammed, photo courtesy

FilmBiz Africa Magazine had the privilege of interviewing Kenya’s youngest Film Maker, Jeff Mohammed. Here, he shares his trials and tribulations. FilmBiz: How does it feel like being Kenya’s youngest film maker? I feel humbled and honored to be Kenya's youngest filmmaker its a something I hold to the highest esteem. being young in a field of giants the experiences and lessons am learning each day are expectation. film has made me mentally liberated and with some of my film knowledge is self taught I also feel lifted and empowered to communicate. FilmBiz: What inspired you to ven-

ture into film? Growing up I was taught photography at a community photography school called Mwelu foundation in Mathare were I was raised, Mwelu foundation was started by Julius mwelu a senior United Nation photojournalist born and bread in Mathare, the school gave us basic, 6 USD point and shoot camera's to document our lives in the slums through photography and creative writing . at that time I was not in school but Mwelu foundation opened the doors for me and after that we held

35 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

their activites. In 2008 I met an American grad student by the name Brian Ekdale as he was studying the slum for his thesis. Brian Ekdale got very interested in photography and writing, and from there I solicited equipment from him to do my first film One goal, one hope a 13 short documentary and that's when the star was born, Brian Ekdale believed in me and gave me the title filmmaker. So I see myself as more of storyteller than a filmmaker.

FilmBiz: What advise do you have to young and upcoming film makers?

we young and upcoming filmmakers should start focusing on our stories the quality and creative stories, as Africans we are brought up in societies that learn through stories. Hollywood distracted how we told stories and a few generations, like mine have been affected by that. but when we start writing real and good stories, what I refer to as 'the tell then like it is stories' , stories to learn from and to enFilmBiz: How do you envisage your- tertain us we will discover how to self in the next 5 years? strengthen the Kenyan film industry and will be will winning oscars that In my first year of filmmaking I won am sure of, so this all filmmakers an International students award at the should concentrate on their stories. Kenyan international film festival and Kenyans are really sharp and we alI was 17, I never thought I would have ready have the technical expertise we done that, so am passionately working need, now its all up to the script writhard to see my self grow and improve ers to make us shine. and to archive my dream of being a film director, a 'qualified' film director. by qualified I mean I need to go FilmBiz: In which ways do you think school and learn more about filmmak- Film can positively contribute to the ing because I finished High school last Kenyan society? year and I want to study film in-depth. but five years after my graduating am Films can greatly contribute to how seeing myself being a leader and crea- we live our lives, how we love , how tive, productive film director who tell we learn , how we interpret actions , the African story in a new light. Am how we do many things. in life we are passionate about the motherland and I not born with a manual guide in hand want to Impact Africa and change the but film can be that manual because perception held by the rest of the we learn a lot from it. In the Kenyan world regarding Africa. Film has the society having been colonized by the power a power to change bad eves , up tight British that mostly believed inspire and create a new and preserve religion and politics. we were never culture and this is what I will use to taught of the limitlessness of film and help change Africa to a new competi- art , film can be used in any front positive and conducive society . tively. film for education pupils can learn more and faster from visualizing

36 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

rather than theoretical. film to inspire a change in our dented African political/leadership portfolios, film to remind us of our various diversities to celebrate their value.

environmental degradation, in poa rowee a river starts talking after people have misuse it and have dumped garbage in it , the river starts rants to the people but no one can here it until one kid magically heard it and decided At the moment I have 3 films , a docu- to take action against dumping in the mentary , ONE GOAL, ONE HOPE river . Awarded first prize at the slum about a young men who lost a leg to film festival 2011 polio but has a passion to play football , Awarded at Kenya International Jeff Mohammed Film Festival 2011 special mention +254713010790 Jeffmohammed (skype) SHOW ME THE COLOURS a short!/jeffmohammed film of young girl who is blind from Email- birth and she is eager to know how the - world looks like so she finds a boy friend who sums up the world in artis-!/ tic way . jeff.mohamed POA ROWEE an environmental short film and public awareness short film that raises awareness to people against

Jeff Mohammed, and a group of film makers soot in Kibera photo courtesy : Jeff Mohammed

37 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Tackling Xenophobia through Film By Christine Wade

The producer (right) and the on the set of ‘The crime of selfdefence’


enophobia is without a doubt a global problem. I strongly feel the media has the power to either speed or hinder the process of solving this issue. As a UK based filmmaker, I try to tell stories that are untold by the mainstream media; inevitably I have come across stories that entail a surprising amount of xenophobia. One of which I made a short documentary called ‘The crime of self-defence’. The film focuses on a 23 year old British male who was born in Angola and moved to London when he was 3. The young male in question and his friend (also a young black male) were involved in an incident whereby the two of them were attacked by 15 individuals, arrested by British police and later imprisoned. Despite CCTV cameras capturing the whole incident unfolding, the law still ruled against them. From observing the trends of news clips and newspaper headlines in the UK, it is evident that many of the stereotypical views that breed xenophobia have derived from misrepresentation of certain nations particu-

larly developing countries. The repetitive clips and articles of foreigners with begging bowls, or at war for one reason or another paints a picture of a biased nature to a significant part of the British society. Consequently, the result is a biased opinion toward foreigners which has been adapted by a considerable amount of individuals and groups, planting the seed of xenophobia by default. Film is a key tool in the eradication of backward mentality as it influences the masses. If more filmmakers were to expose stories that reflected the appreciation of culture and tradition in their countries, more people will be enlightened and therefore part of the ignorance can be done away with. Every film is consists of pictures which either consciously or subconsciously portray significant meanings, therefore, I encourage other filmmakers to understand the importance of each picture and to make films that fight misrepresentation. This will help with diminishing bias, and in turn, be a tool in decreasing xenophobia.

38 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Charles Simpson A Living Legend in Kenya’s Film Industry

Charles Simpson


a route between Owen Falls-Uganda and Nairobi. The ‘survey’, which harles Simpson, the Manag- involved a “walk”, took him six ing Director of Film Stumonths to complete on foot at a time dios Kenya was born and educated in when the entire population of Kenya Scotland. He studied Engineering was only five million. before joining the Military as a career and served with distinction before “There were probably more Elephants being invalided out of the Armed Ser- than people at that time”, he jokes. vices. In 1956, he resumed his studies He was later sent to Iraq then to and joined an Engineering Company Pakistan and India before returning to that sent him to East Africa to survey the UK where he took up an appoint39 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

ment with the Overseas Civil Service and was posted to Kenya where he joined the (then) new Kenya Broadcasting Service (KBS) and the Planning and Development Department. This Department was responsible for developing nationwide radio and television services which at that time was far in advance of any other country on this Continent (and to this day some people are yet to forgive those who brought television to Kenya!)

Kenya, not guilty. Two ex Presidents could lay claim to this honour, the US President “Teddy” Rosevelt filmed some excellent footage of Kenya’s (then) game laden plains from where he was perched on the front of a moving wood burning Locomotive and the late great President Jomo Kenyatta played a part in “Sanders of River” alongside the magnificent Afro American singer Paul Robson whereas I started in a broken down warehouse in Nairobi’s industrial area where the All this was at a time when there were roof leaked and everything shook from no traffic lights in Nairobi, the largest the pounding machinery in the heavy building in the whole of East Africa Metal Works next door, so between was the Secretariat, (now Jogoo getting soaking wet and everything House) and if you climbed the small shaking we had to manage filming, not Lookout Tower at the old Fire Station quite in the same league of two presistill standing on Tom Mboya Street dential forerunners. you would have a clear view of the Athi Plains, Ngong Hills, Ol Donyo After Independence when KBS Sabuk. The Mau Hills, Limuru and the changed to Voice of Kenya (VOK) International Aircraft of the day land- Simpson resigned from Government ing at “Eastleigh Airport.” Lions wan- and formed his own company which dering through Nairobi Streets in expanded into East Africa, Botswana broad daylight was not an uncommon and Swaziland. sight and men were obliged to wear a black tie and dinner jacket if dining In 1984 the Producers of “Sheena out on a Saturday evening. “Ladies” Queen of the Jungle” approached took time over their appearance (as Simpson to dismantle a Baobab tree at they still do) and her clean shaven Sultan Hamud and re-assemble it at well dressed date gave a touch of Hells Gate Naivasha, install a catenary glamour to the evening. No present wire from the top to the base of day male bearing the remarkable reThompsons Falls for crashing a full semblance of an unmade bed in the scale model Helicopter and other invain hope of looking “macho” could credible tasks which Simpson said he hope to complete with a guy who was would happily have done free of clean, tidy, and smelled good and it charge just to get away from the tewas a pleasure to watch couples do a dium of his office. Tango, Fox Trot and Waltz the night away. (Those were the days my friend After “Sheena Queen of the Junwe thought would never end). gle” the blockbusting “Out of Africa” production came to Kenya in 1985 and There are those who attribute me Simpson’s Company was again inwith starting the Film Industry in volved so he formed what is now

40 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

called Film Studios which over the years has participated in high budget productions which have collectively won a staggering 12 Academy Awards, more than all the combined countries in Africa have ever won, a fact that has never been fully exploited by Kenya. Asked what he would do to boost the Kenya Film Industry to its former glory as a first choice location for overseas Filmmakers Simpson stated; “In most countries their Film Industries, like Tourism, are regarded as being “Prime Earners.” For this purpose high incentives are offered to Foreign Filmmakers to bring their large budget films into the respective economies of the host Nations. These countries recognize what free and positive advertising a successful Film Production can do to boost their Tourist numbers. “Out of Africa” for instance actually started the Tourist Industry in Kenya, many of the large Coastal Hotels and Inland Game Lodges owe their very existence to that particular Film and while countries like Canada earned over 2 Billion Canadian Dollars in peripheral Taxes alone and Bavaria offers 30% of Foreign Producers Local spend of imported funds as Incentives, Kenya lags well behind with a 16% exemption on VAT.

withholding Taxes etc would leave the Treasury well ahead of their Investment. At no time in Kenya’s past has there ever been such an urgent need to boost the economy by enhancing our image abroad and in the process, strengthen Tourist numbers. Investing in the Film Industry through incentives to Film here has never before been at such a high priority level”. Asked to compare the Film Industry as it was when he started with how it is now Simpson remarked; “In 1985 the first advertising Award ceremony I attended consisted of some 25 people. Since then it has grown as an Industry into the thousands, full of young energetic individuals eager to be successful and if it was a war they would most certainly win it. While many local Film Productions are funded by Donors such as the EU and others these “Funded” Productions provide an excellent training platform for new Writers, Producers, and Directors if the finished product is not commercially successful. It is of little consequence since the training provided is often the sole criteria for Funding in the first instance.

In a different scenario Donors would channel their funds through an Adjudication Body within the Kenya Film Commission who would adjudiIf this country offered Overseas cate on the commercial viability of the Producers a 25% rebate of their imsubmitted Manuscripts and provide ported funds spent locally the periph- production “loans” to the Producers. eral collectable Revenues alone would These loans would be paid back to the more than recoup the 25% incentive. said Body in the event that the Film Foreign Producers would be happy to was successful in distribution. pay VAT without exemptions so direct Funding for Training Films would Collectable revenues such as VAT and also be provided with the provision

41 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

that they contained a high element of new Writers, Producers, Directors and Camera Operators etc’ without any loan contingent being attached.

ders and are prepared to stand or fall by their own abilities and efforts. They ask for no special treatment or considerations and their Film Productions are subjected to the litmus test of the genThe foregoing suggestion for a eral public who do not pay for what “Revolving Loan” scheme would be they do not want. This is the fundaaimed at enhancing the quality of local mental bedrock of Filmmaking on an films through the adjudication of international scale and applies in equal qualified and experienced Adjudicameasure to all other industries and tors and would open the door to Probusiness. ducers who are unfamiliar with the There is an abundance of Kenya intricacies involved in sourcing Funds talent and ability in our Film Industry directly from the Funders. that will take local Filmmaking to the Asked how he compared the highest standards without relying on “Funded” Film Productions with those anything but themselves” produced by the “River Road” ProducFeel free to get in touch with Mr. ers, Simpson said, “Generally speaking, the River Road Simpson on Producers, as they are called, embody the very essence of filmmaking as an 020 2427007 or send an e-mail to Industry. They ask for nothing either from the Government or from the Fun-

42 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Filming for a Human Cause: Tri-Vision Uganda


rivision Uganda is a nonprofit group of media professionals that enjoy sharing many inspiring untold stories, messages and ideas through film. Since 1993, they have produced several films that deal with various humanitarian causes. Their films include silent films produced on behalf of YEAH (Young Empowered and Healthy) under the banner - Men and HIV/AIDS included: The Late Comer, The Shopkeeper and The Graduation Party, and independent films , Stone Cold, All Our Children and After the Silence. One of Tri-Visions latest productions is called Stonecold. Based on true life events, “Stone Cold� follows the life and family of a man called Kosai. He is a poor man who lives in a rural country side and earns a living by subsistence means -breaking stones by hand in a stone quarry. In a desperate desire to complete a clients order for stones, Kosai re-

moves all his four children from school and takes them into a forbidden and dangerous spot to break stones. The story reveals the dangers, overcrowding, congestion and struggles that accompany life in a stone quarry. In the end, Kosai pays the price for his decision. Some of their other titles include Ketula, and After the Silence. Ketula is a story of a Probation and Welfare officer in Nakwero, Uganda who seeks to find ways and means of giving orphans hope. Through Ketula, we witness the stories of Nicholas, Scovia and Derek; who like so many helpless children are victimized by their own guardians and so-called protectors. After the Silence was set in present day Kampala, Uganda. This story is about Jane who after 8 years of marriage to her high school sweetheart; decides to publicize the fact that she has been a long suffering victim of domestic abuse at his hands. It revolves around the consequences of her confession; when will her suffering end?

43 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Fanning the Flames:

The XYZ Show

Annan with Kibaki/ Raila: Credit Buni/ BuniVisualFX


he XYZ Show is one of the highest rated television programs in the East Africa region. The show is a satirical program based on eye-raising events in Kenyan politics. FilmBiz Africa recently had the privilege to talk to Marie Lora-Mungai, the Executive producer of XYZ. FilmBiz : Why the name The XYZ Show? Marie: When my producing partner Gado (The Daily Nation’s editorial cartoonist) started working on a pilot for the show more than four years ago, people kept asking him what the name of the program was. He had no idea, so

he just typed “The XYZ Show”, thinking that he’d be able to change the name later on when he’d be more inspired. But people seemed comfortable with it, and so the name stuck. FilmBiz : What is the aim of this show? Marie: Gado and I started XYZ because we thought it was an exciting and challenging concept, both technically and in terms of content. XYZ uses puppets and satire to tackle major issues that touch the lives of Kenyans today. A lot of these issues have to do with politics of course. There’s a lot more that we can say through humor than we would be able to >>>

44 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

in a regular newscast, for example. Actually, nothing is off limits on XYZ. We have put Kibaki and Raila in jail over the postelection violence, we’ve had the Hague 6 sing “End of the Road” and then “Tok-lezea”, among many other controversial skits. We keep pushing the envelope. We hope that XYZ can make people laugh first, but then also think and talk. XYZ encourages Kenyans to become more demanding towards their leaders and to really hold them accountable for their actions by being aware of what is going on and asking questions.

FilmBiz : Does this show receive political interference at times and how do you deal with it? Marie: Our broadcasters (Citizen for Seasons 1-2-3 and Kiss TV for Seasons 4-5) have received and continue to receive many phone calls from the entourage of various politicians complaining about the show. But I have to say that both Citizen and Kiss TV have been very good at shielding us

from that pressure. They always recognized that the success and power of XYZ lies in its total independence. Actually, our editorial independence is something that is not negotiable for us. From the very first episode of the first season, we made it an integral part of our contracts with our broadcasters. Today we are proud to say that XYZ has never been censored. FilmBiz : Being a unique show of this nature, XYZ has clearly attracted a lot of global attention. What are some of your biggest challenges in producing this show? Marie: A show like XYZ is very difficult and costly to produce. Many people think that because we use puppets, we don’t need actors. But that’s not true at all! We have very talented actors doing all our voices. And every puppet, which is life-size, is manipulated by two puppeteers. So instead of one, we have three actors per character. And then of course we have to make the puppets,

Annan with Kibaki/ Raila: Credit Buni/ BuniVisualFX

45 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

which involve complicated techniques to handle foam latex, a very delicate material. Setting up a puppet workshop from scratch and getting the team trained was one of our biggest challenges early on. Now our puppet makers have become very good at what they do. Working out an efficient production schedule that allows us to write, shoot and edit one entire episode of XYZ every week was also tricky. By the end of each season, we’re all always pretty exhausted! But it works. Our biggest challenge today is probably keeping the show fresh, current, and exciting -- week after week. A major part of the success of the show depends on our writers Lily Wanjiku, Titus Maina, Edward Khaemba and Julian Macharia. We can always count on them to come up with crazy and hilarious skit ideas.

now have 135,000 fans on Facebook, close to 7,000 followers on Twitter, and we just reached 1 million total views on YouTube. We also make all our full episodes available for free on our official website That means that if you’re a fan who lives in the diaspora, you don’t have to miss anything. It’s all there at your fingertips. We have plans to increase our online reach even further and are developing several solutions to make XYZ available on mobile as well. FilmBiz : The XYZ Show is produced by Buni. What else are you working on at the moment?

Buni ( is a multi -media production company that employs about 70 people, and we have several other projects going on at the moment. We are currently in postproduction on a series of six documentaries called Africanism 101 that take an in-depth look at some of the major FilmBiz : XYZ is now in its 5th socio-political issues in East Africa season. How many more seasons today, like Land and Conflict, Ethnicdo you intend to do? ity, or the Role of the Media. In the Marie: We hope to be able to continue next few months we will be publishing to produce XYZ for years to come. two collections of editorial cartoons: “Les Guignols de l’Info”, the French Gado's "Crisis...! What crisis?" and program which inspired XYZ, has Madd's "Madd Madd World". Both been on the air for 23 years and it still books will contain cartoons about the going strong. We would love to last 2007-2008 post-election crisis. We are that long. also developing an exciting panAfrican children puppet program with FilmBiz : How do you take adwriters from Kenya, Zimbabwe and vantage of the growing web and South Africa. And finally we will soon mobile market in Kenya? be launching our own web and mobile video channel called Buni TV, where Marie: XYZ is very active on all the you'll be able to access and watch all social networks, which we use to con- our productions, but also a lot of other nect with our fans and make the show great content. more accessible and interactive. We

46 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

47 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

To the needy

48 FilmBiz Africa Magazine: Christmas Special 2011

Film as a tool of Positive Change  

Edition 3 of Film Biz Africa magazine, released in December 2011 is a "thank you" issue to various organizations across Africa that use film...