Make Movies, Not Excuses

By Boera Bisieri
Published December 5, 2017

Jackline Asava, who felt it was her job as the director to design and create rules in her film, said she did not find anything wrong with the way the baby bump of her character looks like, wondered who  sets the standards on how a pregnant woman’s belly should look like. Two movies screened and discussed at Nairobi’s premier critical movie gathering have elicited not-so-good a feeling among movie lovers.

The short dramas titled FAITH and THE STATISTIC were directed by Jackline Asava and Peter Kawa who attended the 102nd Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff) at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi to introduce their work and field questions from the attendees of the bi-monthly movie platform that brings players in the motion pictures sector of eastern Africa together to watch and critique short moving images and network with a view to forging friendships and professional partnerships.

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Cajetan Boy, who directed ON YOUR MARKS and AMAZING GRACE that were screened alongside Asava’s FAITH and Kawa’s THE STATISTIC, did not attend the meeting leaving producer and scriptwriter Asava whose Chap Chap Shooters produced the movies to stand in for him.

Alex Kanyi, a moviemaker, puts his point across.While THE STATISTIC is meant to cause awareness and discourage Kenyans against visiting violence on one another based on political differences, FAITH is supposed to cause awareness on religious radicalization that leads to terrorism.

Kennedy Hillary, a scriptwriter at Protel Studios expressed misgivings about lighting in THE STATISTIC.

“I am confused to see the lead character who is supposed to be running away in a terror of night doing so in broad daylight; too much light for a night,” Hillary observed.
This may not have come as a surprise to the audience many of who watch films with this kind of problem almost every month. Technical problems, be it lighting or sound, have been a chronic problem with many locally-made movies.

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Director Kawa excused away the observation saying he had opted to concentrate on the plot and story-development of THE STATISTC as, he said, his focus on the technical part of TORTURE, another film that had been screened and discussed in a sitting of LKSff had seen him vilified for not having paid much attention to the story.

Peter Kawa, sitting next to Jackline Asava, supported her view, arguing that budgetary constraints had forced him to shoot THE STATISTIC over half a day and that that was the main reason why the movie had failed to live up to expectation in areas as lighting that had been pointed out.“My agenda this time round was to make the audience see the character’s emotions. I did not care about lighting,” Kawa confessed.

When a moviemaker tells a very moving story but does not get you to believe the story, just how much would he have achieved? Isn’t a good film made up of a cocktail of many art forms whose sum total is the Sevent Art or a movie?

Esther Kahuka, an actress, expressed concern that the baby bump of the lead character in AMAZING GRACE was not convincing.

“I may not be a woman but I can definitely see that that baby bump is fake,” Victor Odek chipped in.

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Jackline Asava, who felt it was her job as the director to design and create rules in her film, said she did not find anything wrong with the way the baby bump of her character looks like, wondered who sets the standards on how a pregnant woman’s belly should look like.

Movie lovers follow proceedings during the 102nd Lola Kenya Screen film forum at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi on 27.11.27.“My actor said she was okay with that baby bump and so was I,” she said rather defensively.
Asava proceeded to point out that lack of funds was the sole contributor to film not appearing to be not-so-believable.

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Peter Kawa, sitting next to Jackline Asava, supported her view, arguing that budgetary constraints had forced him to shoot THE STATISTIC over half a day and that that was the main reason why the movie had failed to live up to expectation in areas as lighting that had been pointed out.

Attendees of 102nd Lola Kenya Screen film forum ask filmmakers to make movies, not excuses.The ‘low budget’ excuse has always carried the cross of all badly done films in Kenya. While inadequate budget may be a problem, is there any chance that some filmmakers, too, are not so keen in doing their job and are out to give excuses?

“People do not respect what they put before a camera any more. A little more planning and time will correct some of these mistakes blamed on the budget,” advised Godwin Otwoma, a producer at Protel Studios.

Is quick fix mentality the real problem afflicting eastern Africa’s film sector? Shooting a film has become so easy that filmmakers do not take it with the seriousness it deserves. People come up with an idea and quickly assemble a cast and crew ready to shoot without proper planning and that becomes so evident in the films they make, Otwoma said.

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As the forum came to an end, the general feeling was that some filmmakers are out to make not satisfactory movies but to give excuses. We are in the film game together with the rest of the world and the rules are standard. We cannot pretend to set our own rules in the name of low budgets.

LKSff is the initiative of ComMattersKenya media, arts and culture consultancy in collaboration with Goethe-Institut in Kenya. The next sitting of LKSff, the 103rd, is scheduled for January 29, 2018.