By Abdi Ali
Published May 7, 2017
The audience started streaming into the auditorium 30 minutes ahead of time. This was to avoid missing out on the activities lined up on the programme of one of the most important monthly activities on the arts and entertainment calendar of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi: Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff).
Hanging on the four walls of the auditorium at Goethe-Institut in the Nairobi CBD that evening of April 24, 2017 were thought-provoking paintings on a power struggle-instigated massacres in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland and the Midlands Gukurahundi regions.
Though outlawed in the southern African country for allegedly ‘undermined the authority of President Robert Mugabe, the British Institute for Eastern Africa (BIEA) and Gothe-Institut had brought the artwork to Nairobi. The work, painted in red and brown hues resembling blood, had captions telling the story of the massacres perpetrated by the state led by Robert Mugabe who now urges Zimbabweans to ‘move on’ though many of those affected feel that the issue needs to be adequately discussed before it can be consigned to history. This is what artist Owen Maseko had captured in the exhibition titled Sibathontisele (“we drip on them burning plastic” in isiNdebele) and that provided the backdrop to Nairobi’s premier critical movie platform that was convening for the 99th consecutive month.
Tufilamu Pictures, a moviemaking collective of young people who make award-winning experimental films, was to showcase its and reveal their secret to local movie lovers.
Njeru introduced the 3’I’s formula of acting to the gathering that, he said, is based the computer principle of Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO).
The three ‘I’s stand for Internalise (understand the role and character you have to play); Impersonate (forget about yourself and get immersed in the character assigned to you); and Implement (Having understood and immersed in the role assigned to you, act or execute!).
RELATED:About Lola Kenya Screen
Soon after Njeru’s brief but punchy presentation, the moment the gathering had waited for came; the Kenyan premiere of five films by Tufilamu Pictures, all directed by Robert Asimba, a telecommunication engineer from Kenya Institute of Mass Communications who had left engineering to pursue his passion in moviemaking.
The theme that ran through the movies—SPENSA, STRUCTURES OF HOPE, SAGE, WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU, and THE YARD—screened and that left admiration on the audience appeared to be determination, hope, dream and hard work.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the gathering was the debate that raised the issue of ‘Identity and Authenticity’ of the work as being ‘Kenyan’.
Can you make a local film with global appeal? Or a global film with a local appeal? How do you balance the Universal versus the Particular in your movie?
Having said in the chat with discussion moderator Ogova Ondego that Tufilamu Pictures has so far made short films and not full length work because that what the international competitions they target require of them, director Asimba responded on the question of ‘Kenyanness’: “We don’t focus on local or Kenyan market; international platforms are what give us critical perspectives on where we should go. Local is ‘political’; it doesn’t even ask relevant or right questions on what a film is about.”
But Brian Adagala, who mainly edits the movies made by Tufilamu Pictures, said, “We tell Kenyan stories by focusing on local realities.” In other words, these ‘local realities’ and ‘local stories’ qualify what Tufilamu Pictures makes as ‘Kenyan movies’.
Well said. Does Tufilamu Pictures, a self-contained group that acts as both cast and crew and makes ‘zero budget’ films, have any advice for up-and-coming moviemakers?
“Shoot a movie because you have a story to tell and not as an end in itself. Learn by making mistakes and learning from them, hoping tomorrow shall be better than today. Disagree to agree,” said Njeru.
But how can one get the opportunity to work with Tufilamu Pictures?
“Show interest and turn up for auditions,” Asimba said.
Mark Ayabei, a Producer and Director of Photography who has studied Television and Film production, said Tufilamu Pictures would mark its 15th month the day after the their show at 99th LKSff: “Thank you one and all for making us who we are today… Expect a lot more from us! #Godspeed #TufilamuPictures.”
“I am working on becoming a movie director in order to use film to tell people’s stories,” said Christine Nyambura Wanyoike, a Production Manager and Assistant Director with Tufilamu.
Any words of wisdom from Tufilamu Pictures?
“Platforms like Lola Kenya Screen film forum are important because they point us to the places we haven’t been to, places we want to go to; together, with your support, we shall get there,” Brian Wathanga Gatimu, who studied Microbiology & Biochemistry before immersing himself in photography and videography and who says he is determined to become the best director and producer, said.