DOWN MEMORY LANE: Kenyan Film and Television Stakeholder: WAKE UP!

By Kohadha Roy Ogolla on Sunday, February 27, 2011

To all you Kenya Film and Television Industry Stakeholders out there, this is a small point on the “7th Sense of Humanity”, The Common Sense that has proved that it’s “never too Common” in all of us- This is not an insult, but you can as well jump the gun and out of your skins, and assume it as one. Whoever feels like.

This is in relation to the AMAA Nomination Gala Night held in Nairobi’s Ole Sereni Hotel on Friday, February 25th 2011. I’m not privy to the events of the said night because I happen to be “too poor an actor” to raise 125 Dollars in two weeks. I struggle to raise that to offset my humble bills in a month (i.e. Rent, Electricity and Water) yet someone thought it would be easy to raise that on a two weeks notice.

I don’t care for an explanation on how Ogova Ondego single-handedly landed the AMAA deal for Kenya as well became the Director of AMAA Eastern Africa Regional Office because, I neither knew such an office exists not did I have the slightest of idea that a Kenyan was in charge. All I care about it to say, thank you Ogova for “being awake, when we were sleeping”.

I remember overhearing, or rather over-reading something about AMAA coming to Kenya in some newspaper, that was when Wanuri Kahiu was ridding high on “From a Whisper” and was putting Kenyan Film Industry in the world map by winning all the awards that there was to be one in the World Film Awards, never mind that back home, she was being chased to pay her crew and actors. That was way back in May 2010. Then, as usual, that story died, just like that. You might call me lazy, for not trying to find time to chase after information on that, but if getting information on our own Kalasha Awards in like looking for an oasis in the Sahara, how was I supposed to chase after a Nigeria Dream for African Film coming to Kenya.

Fast forward, February 7th 2011, on this page, I learn that there will be a Nominations Night for AMAA in Nairobi on 25th February 2011 at Nairobi’s Ole Sereni Hotel. and after “wide consultations” the organizers, The East African Chapter of AMAA under the “able” leadership of Ogova Ondego, have decided that the charges for the event will be a “paltry” 125 Dollars. This was the day that I learnt that Kenya was the host nation of the Eastern Africa Chapter of AMAA, never mind that Tanzania has a “better” established film industry than us. It is on this day that I also learnt that the Director of AMAA EA is also Kenyan. Great News. But that is where the “greatness” of the news ends.

Om 7th February, is when the organizers realized that they had a “panic” button that could link them up to the massive industry that is the Kenyan film industry and it’s practitioners, that’s when they remembered that Kenya actually has an industry that needed to be involved in the organization of the event, that is when it came to being that there exists a sizable number of corporates that could be interested in the event and that those corporates needed to be followed to “at least” chip in to see the event to it’s success. Apparently, the Kenyans we are, we dwelt on the “shocking” revelation too much and forgot that the event had some other important aspects that we could possibly dwell on. So we went out the Kenyan way and mud-slinged each other all through, only to realize, two days to the event that we could capitalize on the platform and have a chance to chat with the guests of the event. AGAIN the organizers thew the challenge of having that forum “organized” by the industry. In two days, the industry was to come up with a host, avenue and snacks for the event anywhere, but preferable a “five star hotel”. Again, we did what we know best, no need to explain.

Friday 25th February 2011, 2.00 p.m. I over hear that the AMAA guests are “on their way” for the meeting at the Kenya National Theatre. Since I’m here for another meeting, I decide to lay-by and wait, then the information comes at 3.00 p.m. that they are not coming after all. So I have to head to other business. On Staurday 26th February 2011, at 12.00 p.m. I get wind that these guests have at last agreed to the meeting and will be at The Kenya National Theater at 2.00 p.m. I’m in class, having a CAT, all the way in Daystar University, Athi River Campus. Thank God, I happen to be a bright chap and by 2.00 p.m. I’m through with my eight questions, 12 pages paper and embarked on a 1 hour journey back to Nairobi, to catch the dying minutes of the meeting. The driver seems to be reading my mind and withing 40 minutes, I’m at Nairobi’s Railways Station, coz I cannot afford to pick a taxi, I decide to do the abnormal, “run-walk” through the masses that are Nairobi dwellers and by 3.00 p.m I get myself at The Kenya National Theater, “our guests” are still coming. We decide to deal with more pressing matters, like learn the National Anthem in readiness for the Kenya28thFeb… 4.00 p.m. “these guests” are still coming. Ai yawa, two hours, are we that idle? We decide to call Ogova and let him know that we have dispersed and that there was no need to bring the guests after all. As we walk downstairs, they arrive. Thank God.

We spend an hour with these guests, learning nothing in real sense as we happen to be over taken by a group of students who are her to watch setbooks and who believe that Jesus has just arrived back on earth. With no proper sitting, the space was under renovation and the owner was informed of the event two hours to the event, we decide to sit on the available space, with some of us opting for table tops and seats as standing points to at least get both a glimpse and a word from these “star-guests” who kept us waiting for two hours. This (the standing and scrambling) is bad for us but good for the guets, they have just realized that they are stars and that even fellow actors who are supposed to be stars are pushing and shoving to hear them, never mind that the majority were students and teachers, this makes them develop a “we own Africa film Industry” attitude that saw the essence of the meeting not achieved. Questions are answered with arrogance and silence becomes the order of the day, phones become the center of importance as our guests seem to be more concerned with where their next 1000 Dollars pay will come from through their “latest” tech-toys in hands. We are at Wasanii Restaurant but the sun seems to be soooo hot that sunglasses are really proving to be in handy…etc.

This is where the “not so common” common sense comes in:

1. Could we at least try and avert this embarrassments at the Awards Gala Night scheduled for whenever dates in whichever venue by at least letting others know about it like today.

2. Stop this madness of always waiting till the last minute to start dashing up and down trying to sort out matters that should have been sorted well before we went to drink ourselves silly in December as if the world was ending.

3. Became aware of what is happening and who is involved how we could cash on that to try and learn how best we could jump-start this lackluster industry that we so much believe in. That is to say, Distributors can have their date with fellow Distributors, Directors with Directors, Actors with Actors and so on so that we don’t end up looking like a bunch of star-struck non-startes.

4. We at least reduce on our rhetoric of “supporting and crucifying”. Where we support ideas and are the first ones to take a back sit and talk it down yet we wait to see it fail and be the first ones to casts stones.

5. Just decided to work on anything and everything that could develop this industry other than wait on others to come and “help” us do it!

This goes out to all you out there who “worked so hard” to have the Nigeria-Kenyan Actors meeting take place only to “put your asses in some bar enjoying a beer bought for you” and spend a whole day trashing the meeting yet you never set foot at it.

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