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Big screen in limbo as State takes back seat

EXPLAINERS
By | January 15th 2011

By NICHOLAS ANYUOR

The film industry in Kenya has not been receiving adequate support from the Government. This has stagnated growth in the industry despite the fact that the country has many spectacular sceneries.

The Government’s lack of interest has led to fewer movies being shot here. But the good news is that the movies have won several awards: These include The Constant Gardener directed by Fernando Meirelles, the Academy Award winning Nowhere in Africa, Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, and To Walk With the Lions directed by Charles Schultz in 1999. In 2006, we again saw The White Maasai, a German movie about a Swiss woman, who fell in love with a Sumburu warrior, becoming the best foreign language movie. Also in the list is the Fall of Idi Amin, one of the most successful movies.

Kenya has also had notable actors such as Paul Onsongo, David Mulwa, the late Sidede Onyulo, John Sibi Okumu and Njeri Osaak.

With all this, it is clear that Kenya has potential to be among the best film industries not only in Africa but world over.

The development of the industry would create employment opportunities to the youth.

During a regional film/theatre awards ceremony in Kisumu last month to recognise artistes from western region, the Government was faulted for neglecting the industry.

This was the first celebration of its kind in the region, organised by the Lake Victoria Basin Filmmakers Guild (Kenya).

New hub

Scholars and artistes who attended the function admitted western Kenya should be made a new hub of film making since the region has huge potential and unique sceneries. They said it would be the responsibility of the guild to create new direction in film making in western Kenya.

"It is time we made the film industry to be felt the world over," said Obat Masira, the guild chairman.

The ceremony, which was supported by the US Embassy, recognised universities, colleges, individuals, media and literary artists from the region.

"Various arts in western Kenya are on a decline. There is no support, forcing some of the best talents to retire early into oblivion," said Obat.
Prof John Midega of Maseno University’s Department of Literature said Western Kenya is endowed with film sceneries that should be utilised.

He urged the Government to empower institutions to offer courses in arts.

"We want to bring the film industry to life in this region and later spread the success across the country," he said.

Maseno’s fine artist G Z O Nyotumba said he would volunteer to tap talents in the region to forge links with international bodies.

The Government’s Department of Film Services, Kisumu, says it is developing a sustainable indigenous Kenya film industry and would promote the rich and diverse cultural backgrounds of the people of Kenya.

"We would continue to serve the public with renewed dedication and commitment necessary to transform Kenya’s nascent film industry into a world-class industry," said Vincent Onyango, the Department’s head.

Long service

During the awards, renowned literary artists from the region; Grace Ogot, Asenath Bole Odaga, Margaret Ogola, Prof Francis Imbuga and Jill Inyundo were awarded for their long service in writing.

Also honoured were Prof Ezekiel Alembi (post-humously), Dr Opiyo Muma, Sidede Onyulo, Joanness Midah and Onyango Ogutu for promoting performing arts.

Masinde Muliro (Western), Maseno (Nyanza), and Moi (Rift Valley) Universities were identified for promoting performing arts in the region. Fine arts individual awards went to John Diang’a (Western), Arnold Juma (Nyanza), Elkana Ongese (Nyanza), G Z O Nyotumba (Nyanza) and Luke Oshottoe Nodular (Nyanza) while Moi University lecturers scooped the Long Serving Awards (Theatre). They included Evans Mugarizi, Samuel Ndogo, Joseph Basil Okong’o and Prof C J Odhiambo. The Guild Chair Obat Masira was also awarded under the same category.

Radio Sahara FM, Radio Star FM, Radio Nam Lolwe FM, Masinde Muliro University Radio FM and Maseno University Radio FM were recognised in local radio presentation category. A documentary, Voice of Hope, by Martin Saurere Oloo, was also awarded. Nolly Sigei from Kericho won the gospel Video Production Category in Western Kenya for the song Nikumbuke.

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