The Academy Awards popularly known as the Oscars are all the talk, and there are some key factors that link this year’s accolades with our country.
Days to the event, the Kenyatta International Convention Center was involved in a marketing initiative linked to the prestigious award ceremony.
The convention center had the valuable opportunity to market Kenya as a business hub and investment destination.
KICC represented Kenya at the Dubois Pelin & Associates (DPA) gift suite prior to the Academy Awards in a move that it’s Chief Executive termed as potentially beneficial for the country.
“The Corporation is extremely honored to have supportive partners. Other partners are expected to come on board as the initiative progresses and targets to have an all-inclusive participation to push the Country Kenya as a not only a premier tourism destination but a business/conference, film, sports heritage and culture destination,” KICC CEO Nana Gechaga said.
She added: “We also can’t forget about the natural talent and individual crafts our people hold that needs to also be given international platforms for them to showcase too.”
The initiative saw KICC market Kenya by showcasing various Kenyan brands to guests, celebrities and key stakeholders.
It’s not just in a marketing capacity that Kenya got involved in the event. Some Kenyans had the opportunity to be involved in the voting process.
In 2017, film maker Judy Kibinge became the first Kenyan to join the Oscar’s Motion Picture Academy, the group that directly participates in voting.
Ms Kibinge’s nomination came hot on the heels of the outrage following a lack of black nominees in the 2014 ceremony.
The renowned filmmaker is best known for her work on the films Something Necessary, Project Daddy and Dangerous Affair.
And Kibinge had all the reasons to be honoured- the academy is invite only and to join it, one must be an accomplished and well respected film industry professional.
"Younger Africans and Kenyans are this eclectic mix of a new confidence about being African mixed with not feeling like you have to completely reject things of the West. Really realizing, hey we're on the continent, we're here to stay and we can create things we can relate to," Kibinge told CNN in 2017.
‘Rafiki’ movie director Wanuri Kahiu was invited to join the academy in 2019, joining top Hollywood personalities.
Following its LGBT theme, Rafiki was banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board locally.The then KFCB boss Ezekiel Mutua said that the ban was because the film was ‘normalizing’ homosexuality in the country.
In 2020, two more Kenyan filmmakers got the big invitation- Toni Kamau and Wanjiru Njendu.
Njendu is an award winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles while Kamau is an accomplished producer who has worked with Al Ja Zeera, BBC world and MTV Europe.
Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o famously won an Oscar award for her role as Patsy on the 2013 film 12 years A Slave.
This year’s ceremony, which was scheduled to take place in Los Angeles on March 27 was highly anticipated as the world hoped to see the Academy Award repair its troubled reputation for a lack of inclusivity.
Years of criticism about the ceremony meant that it would be under high scrutiny to save its face and gain back the respect it had in it’s early days.
“The 2021 ceremony had an all-time low viewership with fewer than 10 million people tuning in to watch the awards ceremony. This year, the Academy is aiming to regain its lost viewership and increase its ratings,” Aljazeera reported on its website.
The News York Times noted that the prestigious award ceremony was changed forever by the hashtag #Oscarssowhite, which went viral in 2015 for calling out the lack of black and minority winners.
The report noted that the Academy Awards quickly attempted to turn around the situation, seeing more black nominees in the years that followed the revolution.
“In the movie business, nothing is feared like bad press, and by 2016 timeworn incentive structures had begun to tilt in favor of increased diversity in front of and behind the camera,” the report, The Hashtag that changed the Oscars reads in part.
It added: “Films like “Get Out,” “Black Panther,” “Coco’’ and “Crazy Rich Asians” drove a multicultural gold rush at the box office as well as the Oscars, where a record 13 winners of color took home awards in 2019 alone