The potential of Kenyan films in terms of quality content surpasses that of its African peers, yet just a handful of them that make headlines in film festivals and gatherings are virtually unknown at home. With a population of over 1 billion people, the African market would provide a ripe market for Pan African movies that would rival Hollywood, hence the dire need to promote of a vibrant film industry in Kenya.
Observations of film industries throughout the world show that systems of awards are integral to the establishment and growth of national film industries. Awards encourage a healthy level of competition amongst filmmakers by recognizing excellence and the achievements of film practitioners for the growth of the film industry.
Kalasha Awards, a brainchild of the Kenya Film Commission has been at the heart of recognizing and celebrating exceptional talent in the Film & TV industry in Kenya. The Awards represent a variety of categories for Directors, Actors, Writers, Producers, and Technicians in the Film making Industry. In its 9th edition following a successful call for entries, Kalasha Awards received 959 entries in the 34 categories up for competition.
This year among the nominees were Odipo Riaga’s Admission Protocol for Best Original Screenplay, You again featuring Nick Mutuma for Best Feature Film, Plan B with Victor Ombogo for Best Director of Photography just to mention but a few. While making it to the list of Kalasha Awards Nominees is big deal, is there anything much to look forward to when one has crowned a winner?
Local filmmakers are yet to scale the heights to break through into the international sphere, despite Kalasha Awards being the right platform to make it happen. While the Kenya Film and Commissions Board may take pride in this initiative there is almost nothing much to look forward to after the Awards. Take for instance our very own Lupita Nyongo who clinched an Oscar Awards in 2014 and ever since she has been featuring in high budget international films and has given back to the Kenyan Film Industry through Shuga a series that has put her on the world space.
But with Kalasha Awards, it could be just but the name. One of Kalasha Awards 2019 nominees said that he is indifferent about being shortlisted and whether he wins or not there is nothing much to look forward from it. Not the opportunity to work with experts in the field or funding for that matter.
“I’m not too excited about being nominated for the Kalasha Awards, because I have not seen much come out of it other than your fellow filmmakers treating you with respect because you won a Kalasha Award. However, being nominated for the Award is an opportunity for me to show the judges that there is so much content, potential, and creativity within that they should invest in talent locally so that the Kenyan Film Industry thrives both locally and internationally,” said Odipo Riaga a nominee for the Awards.
What good is an award if it’s not creating opportunities and investing in its people? Little is told about Kalasha Awards’ aftermath; how much the winners pocket, any sponsorships or partnerships from foreign investors for the winners, programs or projects in place for upcoming filmmakers among others. Odipo pointed out that, even in its ninth edition, Kalasha Awards has not much to show off to the world. Most winners made a name for themselves before the Awards, and no top production houses have headhunted them to feature in international films or more foreign investors going all in to support them to explore their talents in film making.
The likes of Nairobi Half-Life, Super Modo, Rafiki are just a handful of the local films that have had a taste of international limelight. This implies that there is room for improvement and an opportunity for local filmmakers to make international headlines and for that reason, Kalasha Awards should realign its objectives.
“The Film industry in Kenya is struggling because we do not support and appreciate our very own. This is because pirating Hollywood movies is cheaper, and if this cheaper source has good quality, why would I buy a Ksh 1500 ticket for a local film when I can go to a local bureau and get one with superior quality for Ksh 30?” he argued.
While Kenya Film and Classification Board is out spending Kalasha Awards, on the ground, it should be working extra hard to change the mindset and attitude of Kenyans towards local content and while at is establish useful links that can channel filmmakers to experts and resources.