Surprise pupils eyeing Kalasha prizes tonight

One of the actors in 'Mwanga'; a film nominated for the Kalasha awards. [Courtesy]

Kalasha International Film and TV Awards, Kenya’s premier film awards, are synonymous with the big names in the film industry.

A Kalasha nomination comes with bragging rights. This accolade is what dictates who made the cut in the film year. It is a competitive venture that opens major doors for the chosen few who walk away with the prestigious bronze trophy and prize money on the black-tie gala night attended by the crème de la cream in the entertainment industry.

But even with focus having been on popular names such as previous winner Sarah Hassan, whose Just in Time film has numerous nominations, a little known school in Ndenderu, Kiambu’s informal settlement is proving great.

It is a shift from the usual narrative, as the 10th Kalasha Awards get held tonight.

With a movie titled Mwanga having been nominated in seven top film slots, the little known Kirangari Boys High School is on the edge of making history, as it battles traditional winners for the top honours.

It is a surprise move by first-time actors, students who simply had to take instructions from their director teachers in a low budget attempt that now has the entertainment fraternity talking. It is a compliment for Ndenderu, a slum village that has become synonymous with mega-production that have found their ways into Maisha Magic pay-TV and the streaming Netflix channel.

Erick Mutura, a Form Two student, has been nominated in the Best Lead Actor in a Film category. He is the only student in the category. The film follows the struggles of a Form One who tries to join a school music group but is met with discrimination from older students, who control cartels in school activities.

Passionate to join the music group, Erick Mutura, who plays Mwanga, is faced with resistance from the group leader. Mwanga keeps his zeal to break through the cartel and as he gains access to the dealings within the group, he gets to uncover the criminal deals the schoolboys run as a cartel. 

A Kalasha nomination comes with bragging rights. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

“The truth is that I have never experienced such brutal treatment as a student, but the fact is this is what some pupils go through. Mwanga is the first film I have acted in before and it was a very nice experience. It was a great eye-opening experience that got me to know how big film stars are made. With the help of my teachers, I am learning more about film and I am excited, particularly, about this Kalasha Awards nomination,” Mutura told The Standard.

Raphael Karekei, his colleague, now in Form Four, has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor in a Film Category. He is also the only student in the category.

Mwanga has also received nominations in the Best Sound Design and Best Original Score, thanks to Njuguna Ng’ang’a and David Kamau respectively.

Eunice Muthoni has been slotted in the Best Production Design category while its director of photography David Waronja completes its score of seven.

“After the frustrations, Mwanga is allowed to form his music group by his teachers. His group manages to triumph over the cartel and that is how he goes ahead to represent the school in the school’s competition. As we were shooting, our expectation was to have the movie premiere on the big screen but Covid-19 regulations made that impossible,” says David Njuguna, the producer of the film that was written by David Waronja.

He added: “Being nominated for Kalasha awards is a big motivation for these schoolboys. It is an opportunity that says they have a bright future if they are supported. The commitment they showed during the film was exceptionally good. This is why we need to support creative arts in school so that the talents can be sported at such a young age.”

Njuguna says the team plans to make the film a 90-minute movie.   

The Best Documentary by a Student is an affair between Beautiful Eyes (Elizabeth Nduta), Spotted Beauty (Kelvin Muriithi), Angels on Two Wheels (Peter Muchemi), Colours of the City (Ndirangu Ngandu), Our Pride (Kevin Muriithi and Victor Goro).

There is also a children’s category pitting Our Time to Sign (Kaburo Kobia), Saving Pinky Beauty (Joan Kabugu), Ask Dr Pamoja Series (Darren Collins) and Bururi wa Ciana (Susan Njoki) against each other.