By Kiundu Waweru
For the last two years, the annual Kenya International Film Festival (KIFF) has opened with great films, The Rugged Priest in 2010, and The First Grader.
This year however KIFF shot itself in the foot by opening with a Bob Nyanja directed film that even he is not proud of.
The Captain of Nakara, marketed as a Kenyan comedy was screened to an eager audience yesterday at the National Museums of Kenya. For a feature length film, and a comedy for that, the laughs were few and scattered.
According to the KIFF Director, Charles Asiba, a festival opening is “a big deal” and thus the first film is carefully selected before they showcase films from other countries– this year there are 43 countries that have submitted over 350 films.
The Captain of Nakara had Kenyan talent, with most of the actors being familiar faces from television and others, veteran stage actors.
Small-time thug in love
It stars Bernard Safari as Muntu, a small-time thug who has just been released from prison in a presidential pardon together with his friend, Sunday, played by Charles Kiarie.
Nakara is a fictional African country, just after independence in the 1970s. Leadership revolves around the president, and the civil servants ride roughshod on the citizens.
Muntu falls in love with a beautiful preacher’s daughter, Muna played by Shirleen Wangari, best known as ‘Shish’ from the TV series Tahidi High. Muntu fails to mention his dark past and lies to Muna that he is a big shot businessman. He strives to get a legitimate job; an impossible feat occasioned by the corruption in the government offices.
Angry, Muntu disguises himself as the arrogant drunkard, Captain Nakara (Patrick Oketch, or ‘Charlie’ from the TV series Mother in Law). As the “military captain” Muntu drives sense into the corrupt government officials, winning people’s adoration and marries his love.
Kenyans, especially the youth, will identify with the storyline’s social message. But the script, written by the celebrated Cajetan Boy, in collaboration with the German Martin Thau fails in execution.
“It would have been a nice comical film,” said Ainea Ojiambo, a veteran actor after the screening, “but it needed a bit of tightening.”
There are long-winded scenes, a script that fails to deliver and the actors don’t seem convincing enough. The film also lacks the distinct cinematography familiar with other Bob Nyanja works.
Let’s not get even started on the editing.
So what happened?
Nyanja was not in during the screening
“I am surprised you called…” he laughed.
He explained saying, he is not proud of the film, adding that he was not involved with the story, and in postproduction.
“The script was a pre-determined concept and coming in, I tried to put it in a way it could be presentable (sic). I don’t feel it makes for a modern African audience.”
The greatest challenge was working with a little budget and in a very short time. The film was shot over three weeks with funding from the European Union.
The Producer Jim Shamoon of Blue Sky Films termed the Captain of Nakara a comedy with a social message, the kind you watch and “forget about.”
Kenya International Film Festival The Rugged Priest The First Grader Bob Nyanja