Funding frustrations for Arab film makers

A still from Amer Shomali's The Wanted 18. Credit: Amer Shomali

A still from Amer Shomali’s The Wanted 18. Credit: Amer Shomali

The international film scene is thirsting for original films from the Arab speaking world but funding challenges seem to be choking the industry before it has taken its first breath.

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Published in bq, June 29 2014

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Shreya Ghoshal to perform Bollywood’s best in Nairobi

Twenty-nine year old Bollywood singing sensation Shreya Ghoshal will make her debut performance in Kenya Saturday night at the Aga Khan complex in Parklands.

Shreya is a playback singer, a phenomenon popularised by the Bollywood film industry where the vocals of a singer are pre-recorded and actors/actresses lip-sync the songs while the actual singer does not appear on screen.

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Published in Business Daily, February 14 2014

It Boils Down To Us

There are many layers of meaning in the title of the new Kenyan feature film Ni Sisi, which was released last month by SAFE, the community-based organisation. The Kiswahili phrase translates to “It is us” and is imbued with a strong sense of identification and belonging.

On a preliminary level, it is a story about us, about the Kenyan identity. It is set in a local village with easily identifiable characters and includes phrases and habits that define the essence of living in this country. But it is produced by us – a group of 15 Kenyan actors who experienced the 2007/08 post-election violence.

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Published in The Nairobi Law Monthly, March 2013

Using film to drive social change

What started as a street theatre production performed in an open area was transformed last week into a feature film entitled Ni Sisi (It is us).

The 93-minute production by SAFE, a local NGO, premiered last Thursday at the Australian High Commission and hit cinemas the day after.

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Published in Business Daily, February 28 2013

Hard truths at Human Rights Film Festival

Three young women ran away from home to escape abuse for allegations of adultery and other moral crimes, but ended up in prison. Initially romantic teenagers, these women banded together and learnt to become steely‐eyed negotiators in an effort to secure their future, brokering their freedom with courage, charm, and skill.

It could be a story about any three women who have challenged society’s norms. Perhaps even Kenyan women. But Love Crimes of Kabul is based in Afghanistan. And its universality is exactly what makes it such a powerful story.

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Published in The Nairobi Law Monthly, December 2012

Ripples of Riverwood

Initially criticised for shoddy productions and piracy, Riverwood is now considered a key economic pillar in the country, characterised by its lively spirit and entrepreneurial qualities.The informal film industry which takes it name from River Road, the busy street in downtown Nairobi where music tapes and electronics are sold, has developed a reputation for producing movies and music quickly with one production being prepared in between a week to a fortnight depending on the popularity of the star artist and the creativity of the product. It is fast capturing the attention of mainstream TV stations and pan-African broadcasters, and building stars like Machang’i, Kihenjo and Githingithia who have been ignored by mainstream media but are turning into underground celebrities

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Published in Nairobi Business Monthly, November 2012

Lack of a cinema culture in Kenya poses challenge

What has the Kenyan International Film Festival (KIFF) achieved in the last seven years?

Seven years ago, we didn’t know that locally produced films existed in Kenya. In 2005, at the first edition. the Kenyan documentary “Mo and me” by Salim Amin won seven awards across the world. In 2006, KIFF was the launching pad for ‘‘Kibera Kid’’, which has since won over a dozen awards. The first Kenyan science fiction film, Pumzi by Wanuri Kahiu was also premiered at KIFF, as was ‘‘The First Grader. ‘‘

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Published in Business Daily, October 25 2012