December 14, 2017

The Place of Animation in African Motion Pictures

By Boera Bisieri
Published October 25, 2017

Boera Bisieri speaks during the 101st Lola Kenya Screen film forum at Goethe-Institut, Nairobi Using the art of animation in telling African stories gives you the opportunity to create a new world in which you dictate the rules of the game.

“I love it when I have the freedom to stretch my imagination and execute it without any boundaries and animation gives me the chance to do just that,” said Wilfred Ngugi, an animator whose two short animated work—JOEL’S WORLD and POLITIKHO MANYALIST—was screen and discussed during the 101st session of Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff)—Nairobi’s premier critical bi-monthly movie gathering—on September 25, 2017.

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And the excitement on the faces of movie lovers who attended the event that brings together players in the movie sector to watch movies and discuss them as they forge friendships and business partnership, could not have been mistaken for anything else.

Actress and model Veronicah Wanjiku Karanja speaks during 101st Lola Kenya Screen film forum in Nairobi, Kenya.“I am impressed with the idea of an animation film. This is something Kenyan filmmakers have not had the courage to venture into fully,” said Keith Ngugi, an actor and model who is trying his hand at moviemaking.

The 101st LKSff had had a special focus on animation, showing Adede Hawi, Samora Oundo and Karama Ogova’s LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS, Kwame Nyong’o’s THE LEGEND OF NGONG HILLS, Ng’endo Mukii’s YELLOW FEVER, and Wilfred Ngugi’s JOEL’S WORLD and POLITIKHO MANYALIST.

Many members of the audience we spoke to said the special focus on animation was unique in the sense that it broke the monotony of the almost ubiquitous live action movies.

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However Samuel Luchemo who specializes in entertainment issues, noted that all the films showcased had been done in largely in the almost outdated two-dimension (2D) format instead of the current 3D. He argued that animators in Kenya could be scared of scaling heights and taking up the 3D challenge.

Rita Makumi, a specialist in animation, visual effects, character design, rigging and Scene and background assets, is introduced at 101st bi-monthly #Lola_Kenya_Screen_film_forum (LKSff) at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi on 25.09.17To be fair, however, films like LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS DANGEROUS (made by children during Lola Kenya Screen’s moviemaking workshop), THE LEGEND OF NGONG HILLS and YELLOW FEVER were, respectively, made in 2007, 2011 and 2012 before 3D became commonplace.

Rita Makumi, the character designer for JOEL’S WORLD, responded that that 2D is simple and guarantees a good end result unlike 3D that, she said, involves ‘too much work, is cumbersome and does not exactly guarantee a perfect film’.

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“To avoid the risk of making a bad film, we avoided 3D,” Makumi who, like Ngugi, is a graduate of Kenyatta University on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Also shown and discussed was GHOST PUNCHERS, a fictional non-animated work by Gatehi Mwaniki of the moviemaking communication student collective, NMK Films.

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Besides the showing of movies, the evening featured Questions and Answers with movie directors, panel discussion and the ever popular non-formal networking session.

The main character in JOEL'S WORLD by Wilfred Ngugi.The Girl character in JOEL'S WORLD by Wilfred Ngugi.Boy Extra character in JOEL'S WORLD by Wilfred NgugiWhile the joint Master of Ceremonies were casting director Edward Nyanaro of 254 Talent Management and newspaper writer Daisy Okoti, the discussion moderator that cast moviemakers Ngugi and Makumi of Za Kikwetu Productions and Kibui Kavita, Gatehi Mwaniki and Arnold Asin of NMK Films in the spotlight was Ogova Ondego, the creative director and managing trustee of Lola Kenya Screen.

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LKSff, Ondego said, “brings together moviemakers, film critics and journalists, film writers, media students and scholars, policymakers and implementers, development partners, investors, actors and actresses, social awareness groups, cultural agencies and other players with a stake in the arts, media, culture and motion pictures sectors of Kenya in particular and eastern Africa in general to watch movies and critique them and forge friendships and partnerships aimed at creating a film industry in the region.”

Moviemakers in Focus during 101st Lola Kenya Screen film forum: moviemakers Ngugi and Makumi of Za Kikwetu Productions and Kibui Kavita, Gatehi Mwaniki and Arnold Asin of NMK Films.LKSff has since 2005 been presented every last Monday of the month by ComMattersKenya consultancy in collaboration with Goethe-Institut. After 11 years, this Nairobi’s longest running and most consistent premier critical movie platform went bi-monthly in February 2016.

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