The government has developed a National Film Policy to address major challenges hindering the growth of the film industry in the country.
The Principal Secretary (PS) State Department for Broadcasting and Telecommunications, Esther Koimett, said the government’s vision for the film sub-sector is to make Kenya one of the top destinations for global film producers as the industry impacts positively on Kenya’s tourism, transport and manufacturing sectors among many others.
Koimett said the policy will strengthen the existing legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks, establish the Kenya Film School, create a national film fund and promote co-production agreements between Kenya and other countries.
“This policy emphasizes promoting the development of local content and establishing a market structure that attracts and protects the national and international investment in film production and services,” she stated.
The PS made the remarks during the 3rd Women in Film Awards (WIFA) 2022 Gala themed ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted: Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment’ held at the Kenya National Theatre, Nairobi.
The awards, inaugurated two years ago, is a forum that brings together Kenyan women filmmakers to interact, meet with potential financiers and get an opportunity to find partnership to address financing of films, as well as encourage them to present our world, our culture and society through their own eyes.
She said film has had a huge impact on society, not just as a vehicle of entertainment, but also as a source of knowledge, inspiration, and change through the stories they tell and the images they capture, besides providing employment opportunities and boosting economies.
The PS said today the country can look back at pioneer women filmmakers Dommie Yambo Odote, Jane Munene, the late Asha Kibibi, Annie Mungai, Christine Bala who blazed the trails from the 1980s and marvel at how much they had to overcome to sit at the filmmaking table.
“These filmmakers had to overcome numerous societal obstacles, technological challenges such as filming on celluloid film which had to be processed in a laboratory and entering a male-dominated career which meant unspoken entry barriers among other obstacles,” said the PS.
She also commended the trailblazers in the early 2000s for their persistence and for opening the doors for the next generation of women filmmakers who included Frankie Ashiruka, Njeri Karago, Kristeen Savane, Wanuri Kahiu and Judy Kibinge among others.
“We are happy that the second generation of women filmmakers persisted despite the challenges thrown their way and came up with productions such as ‘Dangerous Affair’ by Njeri Karago, and WARIDI TV,” she added.
Koimett said the country shall forever be grateful to the gallant ladies for venturing out in a time when women were rare in the sector.
She added that the industry has now attracted more women bringing vibrancy and helping to create films that are representing Kenya at local, regional and even international fora and platforms.
The PS announced that the government through the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, has been proactive in promoting women in film through Film Services Department and the national film and media training institutions.
Currently, the ratio of students at the Kenya Film School, the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, Multi Media University and others is comparable between both genders.
The Kenya Film Commission is in its Third Film Empowerment Covid -19 Mitigation Funding Cycle. Through the cycle ‘The Medicine Man’ by Betty Kathungu-Furet benefited from the Second Cycle Empowerment funding.
She said it is encouraging to note that Kenyans are very active in the digital space, quite often leading the African continent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, platforms which she said presents potent avenues for marketing audio-visual products.
Koimett said the potential of the digital space led the government to prioritize and invest heavily in internet access, noting that Kenya is among the top three most connected African countries, after Egypt and South Africa.
“This investment is paying back and earning revenue for Kenyan youth, and plays a significant role in the growth of the film industry,” she added.
The PS at the same time encouraged young women who may not have a talent for acting to venture into script writing, production, sound, lighting, film directing and as costume designers so as to use their talents to blossom.
She at the same time called on stakeholders promoting and empowering Kenyans in film making, not to forget that films have the power to influence both positively and negatively.
“Films with unnecessary sexual, crime, and violent content have the potential to have a bad influence on the youth. We should therefore be guided by our cultural norms and national values during the production and exhibition of film content,” she cautioned.
By Bernadette Khaduli