By Dorcas Wanjau
Published September 29, 2017
When Nairobi’s premier critical movie gathering convened for the 101st session on September 25, 2017, its focus was on animation but it ended up exposing the shame that masquerades as university training of moviemakers in Kenya.
Wilfred Ngugi, whose two short animated movies—JOEL’S WORLD and POLITIKHO MANYALIST—were screened and discussed during the bi-monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff) at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi, said he had learnt animation not from the four years he had spent studying theatre arts and film technology at Kenyatta University, but from what he termed as self-training at ‘YouTube University’.
As if taking cue from Ngugi, Kibui Kavita, Gatehi Mwaniki and Arnold Asin—the moviemaking communication students at Daystar University whose GHOST PUNCHERS live action movie was also screened and discussed, said they had largely taught themselves the craft of making moving images from their own shared love for comics and computer games. Their film, GHOST PUNCHERS, is the tale of a man who, rather than run from ghosts, opts to fight them with punches and kicks.
Participants in the LKSff that brings together players in the motion pictures of eastern Africa to critically appreciate movies with a view to encouraging filmmakers to aim for higher production values, expressed concern that a student should not have to waste four years and a tonne of money in an institution of higher learning studying what is described as filmmaking only to come out empty-handed and then have to teach themselves the craft online.
Screened alongside Ngugi’s animation for inspiration and not discussion were Adede Hawi, Samora Oundo and Karama Ogova’s LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS that looks at calamities brought about by ignorance, Kwame Nyong’o’s THE LEGEND OF NGONG HILLS that explains the emergence of the hills from which pilots take direction as they land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Ng’endo Mukii’s YELLOW FEVER that shows the obsession of African women with skin-lightening substances.
All of these two-dimensional (2D) animations may be short on time but have well told and complete stories that appeal to both adults and children.
The highly interactive audience not only posed many questions but also gave invaluable feedback to the moviemakers present.
The common denominator for the movie crew was their shared experience as ‘YouTube University’ graduates; They said that most of their moviemaking skills have come from watching the YouTube tutorials and a small percentage from their formal university education.
Thanks to presenters ComMattersKenya consultancy in collaboration with Goethe-Institut in association with ArtMatters.Info cultural journalism and criticism medium and IPO-Eastern Africa network, LKSff is one of the most useful creative platforms, most consistent and longest running movie gathering on the Nairobi arts and entertainment calendar.
One of the five programmes of the Lola Kenya Screen movie and arts festival and skills-development and marketing platform for children and youth in eastern Africa, LKSff brings together players—filmmakers, actors, Journalists, Critics, Writers—in the audiovisual media sector. LKSff that ran every last Monday of the month between 2005 and 2016 has now gone bi-monthly. Budding creators of movies have their work screened and discussed as they network and receive feedback and exposure aimed at encouraging and providing them with growth in their career.
The turn up during the 101st LKSff was full house with young people full of enthusiasm for movies and the arts. Quite interactive was the non-formal networking session that the 30 minutes allocated for it seemed not to be enough. That the forum provides a platform for learning and forging friendships and partnerships cannot be gainsaid. The next meeting is scheduled for November 27, 2017 from 5:30 PM.