Use movies to change Kenya and Africa's global perceptions

Film reel. [iStockphoto]

It was Chinua Achebe who once observed that “until the lions have their own historians, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter’’. Kenya and Africa generally have not fully appreciated and tapped the potential of film industry.  

The story about Africa, her people, her cultures, her struggles and triumphs has continued to be told through the eyes of Westerners who may never fully appreciate unique anthropological bases for certain phenomena which sometimes make them to fundamentally misrepresent and distort facts.

Movies allow us to be cognitively transported to a different time and place. They allow us to experience life through different eyes, hence gaining new perspectives. For all the ground covered already in film industry in Kenya, there is still much work to do. So many stories to tell and so many talents to be tapped, nurtured and turned into superstars.

Film industry presents a huge opportunity that the African continent through the African Union and the many regional bodies such as EAC, SADC among others have failed to seize in the bid to create employment opportunities that have been dwindling in the recent past. Economic potential through massive job creation and billions in revenue can only be imagined.

Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is said to be nothing more than a clever remake of African folklore without fundamentally selling Nigeria and/or Africa to the world in the way Hollywood has successfully sold America to the world.

Part of the general thinking among the people of the Global South that America is infallible is largely a creation of Hollywood. We all know America was not and has never been infallible. For starters, it’s a society whose economic prowess was founded on the backs of enslaved people. Its political institution for so long was not inclusive. Some of the military build-up it so cherished ended in great disasters such as Vietnam and Iraq.

It’s only in America where gunmen shoot children in schools for sport. But when you watch a Hollywood movie, what you see, is a Utopian society devoid of flaws.

African continent, through the African Union (AU), can now build a pan-African ideological medium of mass communication. In this day and age when most African cities are grappling with xenophobia, drug addiction and religious fundamentalism, we can stem the tide by producing movies that will challenge entrenched dogmas, materially put a dent on the sectarianism in the continent and preach brotherhood and solidarity.

Most African leaders have spectacularly disappointed when confronted with the question of non-binary gender. Majority of them have simply retorted that it’s not part of African culture while in some other places in the continent the official response has been criminalisation and subsequent ostracisation.

If Africa is to lead the world someday, it must inculcate a culture of intelligently, creatively and compassionately responding its issues without first resorting to criminalisation.

The cultural imperialism as a soft means of colonisation took root in Africa in part due to lack of homegrown motion pictures. Western moral concepts, sexual symbols, western ideals of beauty have been widespread. Look around you and see how otherwise beautiful African women with round figures are struggling to lose weight and fit the beauty standards of the west.

Film has served as a tool of cultural exchange between various civilisations. Without a robust film industry, we will witness a continued supplanting of African values and cultures with the western values completely.

Leveraging on our robust film industry, Kenya through the AU can provide leadership in remaking the image of Africa to the world. Africa of disease, famine, starvation and wars must not be the Africa that future generations will identify with. We must start seeing movies about Africa where decentralisation of power works in the fashion of devolution is working and delivering real promise to the people. We must see movies of Africa where elections are so credible such that however hotly contested the losers will congratulate winners.

If we are to buy the Africa is rising narrative, we must retell our stories, through our own experiences and perspectives.

-Mr Kidi is convenor of Inter-Parties Youth forum. [email protected]