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Renowned Kenyan actors walk with Jesus

EXPLAINERS
By | February 3rd 2012

The local film scene scores a rare first releasing a Christian movie which will premiere tomorrow (Saturday) at Prestige Plaza, writes KIUNDU WAWERU

Kenya is yet to boast of big film production houses that inspire imagination but one of the few in the list is Cinematic Solutions. They have produced award-winning films Malooned and The Rugged Priest. However, the films are more identified with director Bob Nyanja.

Scene from the movie, Walking with Jesus. [PHOTO: courtesy]

Regardless, an invitation to Cinematic Solutions on Elgeyo Marakwet Close for a press screening of a new film was met with enthusiasm. So far, the stable has not disappointed, and its works are being recognised both locally and internationally for their bold display of issues on the silver screen.

Rugged Priest

But the film was a shocker. There were no gun wielding thugs as in The Rugged Priest where political hit men hunt a fictitious Father John Kaiser, nor the sensational drama with veiled sex innuendo in Malooned that culminates in self discovery; the weapon of this new film is the bible.

And its name is Walking with Jesus. Now, I am yet to see a proper Christian film, shot in Kenya and by a complete cast of some of the best Kenyan actors.

The film features several cuts from the famous Jesus Film, which shows the suffering Jesus Christ underwent.

Jesus Film was shot in 1979 based on the gospel of St Luke. It has been translated into more than 2,500 languages, 25 of which are Kenyan and in others in 200 countries.

Spreading the gospel

The Life Ministry in Kenya, who under the arm of Campus Crusade for Christ produced the film with the assistance of Cinematic.

"With the success of Jesus Film, The Life Ministry, the owners, has been looking to do a follow up film, starring Africans and for Africans," says Isaac Kanyingi, The National Director.

Walking with Jesus, which was shot with an African audience in mind is filmed in Kenya. The location is chosen in a way that you cannot tell where it is.

It is shot in Kiambu, staff quarters of a coffee estate. In the backdrop of the dilapidated white — turned brown houses, a vicious chief rules. Chief (Paul Ramtu) is a "land grabber, a woman snatcher, and an unflinching thug who took over everything he saw and liked."

The chief happens to watch the Jesus Film and is amazed that the man named Jesus would suffer greatly to save other people; a complete contrast to himself as he lives in grandeur surrounded by squalor. Through flashbacks, we see the chief, flanked by his bodyguards including renowned actor Ainea Ojiambo, grab land and even chicken from hapless villagers forcefully.

Accepting Jesus

In this village lives a humble teacher, who is also the preacher played by John Sibi Okumu. The chief invites the teacher to his house. He shares with him about how the Jesus Film affected him that even sleep is difficult. The brutal tribal leader is in the verge of accepting Jesus, but he believes his sins are too terrible to be forgiven.

His two wives, who fear him so just like the rest of the villagers, eavesdrop in disbelief. The chief’s transformation leads one of his wives, played by Lydia Gitachu to accept Jesus.

As the chief wrestles with his past demons even as the ‘light’ beckons, the teacher has his hands full trying to transform the model African Village that is bedeviled by witchcraft, poverty and societal ills. John Sibi plays this role perfectly and only time will tell if he will succeed.

The films appealing cinematography is one of its strong points. The actors are all professionals save for a few extras who hail from Mbo-I-Kamiti where it was filmed.

However, the bible teachings laced script is not as creative as it would have been more relevant in the early days when Christianity was being introduced in Kenya and the rest of Africa. But seeing as the film sole purpose is to be used by pastors all over Africa to reach all people, it will be ideal in the marginalised hamlets.

It also hits you strange that the cast, playing as villagers speak in impeccable English. On this, Reverend Ignatius Nyaga, The Life Ministry Church Movement Director said that the film would be translated to other African languages starting with Kiswahili.

Walking with Jesus premieres tomorrow (Saturday) at Jesus Starflix Cinemas, Prestige Plaza presided by the Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, and Samuel Poghisio, Minister for Information and communication.

Well, when credits role, the bible from which teacher John Sibi regularly quotes seems more powerful than the gun; or even love innuendos.

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