When celebrated director, Simiyu Barasa, swung his spectacles from the front of his eyes to his bald head and broke the news to me, I thought it was something he was only considering; Only to find out that it was an ongoing project. He had teamed up with the prolific (producer)Betty Kathungu-Furet, to produce the film, Kizingo.
In a country where film making was introduced as early as the 1950’s with marks of approbation for its first president being a featured extra in one of those films, it is a considerate surprise that not much stride has been made towards making film an industry as well as a culture. All intricate challenges however point to one major impediment: Distribution.
Still our best hope is on the independent film maker who prioritizes an artistic aim and desire to connect with his/her audience. One may wonder how to categorize an indie from a mainstream film maker in Kenya. This argument is substantial as film making is still not a main source of livelihood in the country. Based on numerical availability,we could refer to N.G.O and donor funded films as mainstream. A few are usually free to explore an authentic narrative while most are purely meant to proselytize or sustain a didactic social awareness theme.
The main reason why most film makers seek refuge from N.GO’s is purely financial. However, the only way they can create their own financial independence is by creating a consumer market. This is not a brand new idea neither is it a solution that I have just thought about and offered. It has been discussed in the film circles for as long as I have been in it. Unfortunately, no one has ever given it a serious try. Not until now!
“With Kizingo, the mission is to make a high quality film and then go on a countrywide tour to make sure that it is screened in all the counties via box office. The film makers will attempt to disapprove the myth that box offices only exist in Urban cities in Kenya, in film theatres. With a laid out plan to bring Cinema to the people, we aim to take the film to social halls and other screening venues across the country.”Said Simiyu.
In deed the two film-makers have kept the vision and laid the ground work. The film will premiere in Machakos People’s Park on the 5th of August 2016. Not only will this be the first feature film of national allure to premiere outside Nairobi, it will also be the first film ever, in Kenya, to show simultaneously in 8 counties from the premier date to the 7th of August, 2016. Logistically, this means that in future it will be possible to rank films according to box office performance.
What this also means is that Betty and Simiyu will inevitably make a distribution channel which other film makers can follow later on. I love that he stressed that the film will be of high quality. He expounded on how he would go about it:
“Kizingo is a Kiswahili comedy drama about two bumbling thugs, KAUZI and ROBAA who lose their loot to two kids, SONI and JOHNI. Attempts to terrorize them and retrieve the loot turns into more comedy than horror. What is more , by picking children who have never acted on screen before, and mixing them with seasoned actors from Nairobi and Mombasa, the film not only aims at showcasing raw exciting talent, but also creating partnerships between Nairobi and Coast film productions. Plans are also in place to work together with film producers in Kisii, Embu, Nyeri, and the coast .”
In deed the film is a good cocktail of stars and newbies. Evans Isaya, who stars in Sumu La Penzi and Lies That Bind as well as several Zamaradi films, and commercials, has a major role. Pretty Mutave who is based in Mombasa and has built a following from the TV show, Arosto is also starring in it. Eleven year old Fatuma Ali and ten year old Jakes Israel are soon going to be the darlings of film. Other cast members include Muhammed Juma Said, Ali Shahibu and Julian ‘Mwazele Tindo’.
It is of course challenging to work with new actors whether young or old since acting is a profession as any other. But one could argue – or hope – that when you discover natural talent and place it in the hands of a creative and talented director like Simiyu Barasa, magic is made;(remember Abraham Attah as Agu in Beasts of No Nation).I am positive that independent distribution is the way to go and Kenyans will later appreciate the trailblazing structures that this initiative will leave.