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Wandago's two decades in film

By | March 26th 2011

By Mangoa Mosota

He has directed more than 10 films, three of which have won prestigious awards.

His motion picture, Simbi, won the best film during the Kenya International Film Festival six years ago, while Naliaka scooped a top award at the Zanzibar Film Festival. His other masterpiece, Metambo, his first major movie won an award in Zimbabwe 14 years after it had been released.

Albert Wandago, who runs Alwan Communication Ltd, has been in the film industry for the last 20 years and is arguably one of the leading players in the film industry in western Kenya.

The film maker during the interview

"Despite several challenges, I believe I have done something worthwhile in the film industry in this region and Kenya," he says with a smile.

In addition to the films, he has directed comedies and produced more than 200 documentaries.

One of his outstanding comedies is Kibrit (matchbox). The production features Steve Ogana and Felix Odiwuor, popularly known as Jalang’o.

"We shot it in Kibera a few years ago. It is about two cousins struggling to survive in difficult conditions. They argue frequently on many issues, among them who should buy food," says Wandago, who is hesitant to talk about his family, only stating that they live with him in Kisumu.

He says the Kenyan film industry is as good as the Nigerian one, popularly known as Nollywood, but the latter is successful because of the support it gets from viewers. Nigerian viewers support their actors by buying their movies, he says.

"The Government also supports the Nigerian industry," he adds.

Nollywood grew quickly in the 1990s and 2000s to become one of the largest film industries in the world only second to US’ Hollywood. India’s Bollywood is ranked third.

Last year, the World Bank extended financial assistance to the Nigerian movie industry totaling $20 million (Sh1.7 billion). The bank said the financial support was aimed at giving practitioners access to easy and accessible funding, with a view to improving production, distribution and other marketing channels for their works.

Wandago cites poor funding as one of the reasons Kenya’s movie industry has not been able to compete favourably with, say, Nollywood.

"When as stakeholders we established the Kenya Film Commission, one of its core functions was to advance seed money to directors and producers so that they would buy equipment. But that is not happening," he says.

"The commission says it is not getting enough funds from Treasury. Piracy is another challenge for the industry. It has been made worse by new technology where within minutes one can illegally copy a movie and sell it cheaply," he adds.

He says his current film, which will be shot next month, will cost Sh1.2 million and the equipment to be used is also worth millions of shillings.

The entrepreneur plans to take the film industry in western Kenya to another level.

He says plans are complete for the commencement of the New Kisumu Film School from May.

The institution will offer certificate courses in photography, script writing and film direction and creation.

"We’ll put emphasis on the practical aspect since many institutions concentrate on theory. As a result, many of their graduates lack the skills needed in the industry," he says, adding that more than ten young people have shown interest in joining the college.

Wandago’s movie planned for next month will be shot in Kisumu and Ugenya.

Gerry Owiti, one of cast members, says he is happy to be part of the movie, which is based on relationship but is yet to be given a title.

"I have been acting for the last seven years, and am happy to be among the youth in Kisumu who have been given an opportunity to exploit their talent," says Owiti, 32, who has acted in seven movies, one of them in South Africa.

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