WHAT IS AILING THE FILM INDUSTRY IN KENYA?
The film industry is under the Film Department in Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). Department of Film Service under ICT regulates and licences all film agents and companies. Film production is regulated by the government, in particular, through two Acts of Parliament: The Films and Stage Plays Act of Parliament Chapter 222 and the Copyright Act of Parliament Chapter 130.
The Kenyan government has made conscious efforts to develop Kenyan cinema as an industry. In the year 2005 the government helped establish the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) which came into operation in mid-2006. The Kenya Film Commission aims to promote the industry not only within the country but also to raise international awareness and interest from potential investors. It supports the Kenyan film industry by providing facilities for screenings and filming and organizing various workshops to educate local film-makers seeking to enter film production. It is also responsible for advising on licensing and immigration; as well as facilitates the filming process for filmmakers. The Commission is also establishing a database that will list film directors, producers, agents, local talent, stakeholders and service providers to raise the profile of the Kenyan film industry. The film industry in Kenya has been identified as a key growth industry with great potential to spur economic growth and help in the realization of vision 2030 through tourist attraction, investment and employment creation.
The Kenyan film industry is still finding its way. According to Njeri Kihang’ah (2008), an entertainment writer for the Daily Nation, a Kenyan newspaper, Kenya has played home to documentaries and short films rather than feature films. It’s hard to believe that despite having over 60-year exposure to location scouting, filming, script writing and availability of the best filming equipment, Kenya still lag behind Egypt, South Africa, and Nigeria in film production. The industry is not rising as fast as we hoped it would. For a long time it was just about getting money, about how fast producers could make a buck. People are starting to realize it’s not just about money, it’s about quality. Godfrey Ojiambo, one of the stars of Kibera Kid film, discussed his frustration about this lack of progress in Kenyan cinema in an article by Arno Kopecky (2007):
Edwards (2008) carried out a research and highlighted six challenges facing the building of a self-sustaining, indigenous film industry in Kenya, namely:
- Maintaining an indigenous Kenyan voice, by telling a story creatively and effectively;
- Lack of film education. Film schools, colleges and universities are charming out graduates who cannot perform a basic task like camera focus;
- Organization of above-the-line and below-the-line talent,
- Finding funding is a big problem;
- Technology. While some production houses like Dreamcatcher Productions Limited have invested in the latest postproduction and filming equipment, this is far beyond reach of many. Local content that we watch on TV is still not up to standard that I would like to see.
- Finding audience. Partly due to the above reasons, it is quite hard to sell a product in Kenya. Don’t even mention our local TV stations who demand a high quality video, shot, edited and graded using the latest equipment and technology and pay Kes 80,000 per 28 minute episode. That is not even enough to pay a DoP!
We have other menace like piracy, lack of incentives from the government and undercutting in the market.
Can we start by offering courses that will equip film crew with skills that are required by the market. In order for the indigenous film industry in Kenya to produce quality films worthy of a global audience, educational, technological, government policies and commercial concerns need to be addressed.
Senior Accountant, Dreamcatcher Productions LimitedCPA, BBM (Moi University, Finance and Banking)