By Tony Ngige.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade or so, it is quite evident that visual art is the future and as a matter of fact, the future is here. With the attention span of the average human being having reduced significantly over the past few years, visual representation of information through media such as film is at its most beneficial point. With the world taking on film as one of the biggest and most effective way of passing a message across or even spearheading change in society, Africa has not been left behind. In fact, Africa’s film industry is growing sporadically and if we maintain the status quo, we will quickly and most definitely conquer the said industry.
In Africa, Kenya is at the forefront of the film-making culture having recently been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film at the 90th Oscar Awards early 2018, for the short film Watu Wote. The 2017 film, directed by Kenyan-German Katja Benrath is based on a true story that depicts the Al- Shabaab militia bus attack on Muslim and Christian passengers in Mandera in December 2015. The film goes a long way in addressing the consequential unrest that arises in Kenya from the militia group attacks in the country.
This, however, was not Kenya’s first award-winning production to be released on an international platform. In 2016, Kenyan director Mbithi Masya released a drama film, KatiKati, that gained significant acclaim having won the Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. KatiKati follows the life, or in this case the after-life of Kaleche, a lady who finds herself in purgatory assimilated to her by a ghost. Definitely a must-watch!
A little while ago, Nairobi Half-life, one of Kenya’s most recognized films was released and it quickly set the country’s film industry on an international level. The film showcases the life of a young, aspiring actor from an upcountry region with big dreams in his pursuit of success in the big city, Nairobi. Directed by David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga, the film spearheaded the film culture of the country by being one of the most relatable productions to date.
Most recently, the talk of the town has been the film Supa Modo which is a story about a terminally ill girl whose desire to become a superhero amidst her condition inspires the society around her to rally together and make her dreams come true. The film was directed by Likarion Wainaina who has previously produced the popular show Auntie Boss, award-winning Bait and Kidnapped. The film was recently recognized at the Berlin International Film Festival held in February, 2018.
It is clear that we are making great strides in the film-making industry. However, it has not been an easy road. Facing stereotypes such as films requiring a colonial point of view in order to be considered award-worthy has been a challenge especially in the west. Moreover, African films are only considered as crafts and only ever make it to a small-scale level in comparison to productions from Hollywood for example.
Despite all this, the future is bright and with a little more effort and support from the film lovers and audiences, no one can say how much success we gain as Africa.