Words by AMANDA OWINYA
Kenya has been on the verge of a creative boom over the past few years. This is evidenced by the many accolades the creative industry has been receiving over the past years. When it comes to film, Kenya has been showing a more out-of-the-box approach in terms of their production quality and the stories covered.
Nairobi Half Life is by far one of the most wildly successful films to have been locally produced in Kenya. Aside from being a continental sensation and being highly acclaimed by the many awards it received at some of Africa’s biggest film award shows, it managed to garner international recognition from the Oscar Academy by receiving a nomination in the international film category at the 85th Award show; a first for Kenya.
The film revolves around the many facets that surround survival in Nairobi. The movie brought into context the harsh realities of life in the city by exploring the underground network of criminals in the city by bringing to us their stories and circumstances. The film received much love and appreciation from diverse audiences because the story presented is one that many people could almost seem to relate to, not from a place of having directly been in the same situation as the actors but from the bare truth the film presented. The film found a way to tap into a topic that many would rather ignore and live in constant ignorance and oblivious to the reason behind society but also to help the audiences to look at themselves introspectively and show them the humanity that exists especially in those shunned by society as being evil. The director, David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga managed to find a gap that existed in society and built a bridge so as to allow for both sides of society to truly see each other’s stories.
This way of storytelling showing real people in real situations is a direction that has been a long time coming for the Kenyan film industry. Bringing audiences stories relevant to their demography is something that has definitely been lacking in the Kenyan Film industry for quite some time due to the heavy influence of Western Media. Nairobi Half Life is a film that dared to attempt to fill the void created by the creativity drain in the local industry not only in Kenya but Africa.
As a result of the sudden opening of a long-abandoned creative door in the Kenyan film industry achieved by the film Nairobi Half Life, creators became more courageous in being more diverse in their productions and coming up with out of the box content for their films. The bar of creativity was since raised with more creators choosing to feature topics that were not traditional in the sense of not sticking to a specific route.
Katikati is a film that can be attested to have been a product of the film revolution. For this particular film, the director, Mbithi Masya took a creative direction that is nothing like anything we have had in the Kenyan film industry. It revolves around the concept of souls in limbo. It explores the dynamic of the afterlife the fate of souls. The idea was something very new because it steps out of the norm and focuses on a subject that surrounds us as human beings that is Death but looks at it from a different point of view.
Such creativity in film production inspires not only in the sense of quality production but also in the sense of aesthetic. By exploring a subject that is very different from the norm, it opens discussions about more topics that can be delved into as well as challenges the creative direction of any future films.
Madaraka is a documentary that focuses on the creative industry in Kenya. The project is geared towards showcasing, discovering and developing talent in the fast-growing creative market in Kenya. It looks at industry players and their achievements as well as introspectively looks at the talent that exists in the country. It highlights the difficulties that the creative industry presents and focusses on grooming young talent on their way up.
The documentary gives an in-depth view of the creative industry in the country by giving audiences a glimpse of the diversity that Kenya and its youth have to offer. It looks at the Kenyan youth and highlights their concerns and the struggles they face in the Kenyan creative industry. Being a developing nation, Kenya has miles to go in terms of growing its creative space on a legislative level. With this documentary, audiences will be able to truly see the work that goes behind the creation of productions in the country from film to music to art.
The project has the contribution of major Kenyan industry players such as members of one of the top African bands and the pride of Kenya in the music industry. Their passion for Kenya and the creative industry is something that they have been very open about and worked hard towards promoting internationally.
Such productions represent the dawn of a new era in the Kenyan film industry because it marks a turn in the creativity seen in films. It shows a generation of creatives who refuse to accept the norm and playing it safe but rather chose to look for new ways to tell their story. It captures the spirit of the new Africa that is not afraid of challenging its limits.
These are stories that are finally being told by Africans and for Africans.