Amendment of film law will spur industry growth

Monday, July 26th, 2021 00:00 |

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Kenneth Kigunda Harrison       

The film industry in Nigeria and South Africa have grown exponentially. But in Kenya, the growth has been stunted by archaic laws that govern the sector. 

This despite Kenya having some of the most talented, tech-savvy and relatively young generation of creatives, some of whom are acclaimed globally. 

A section of Kenyan filmmakers and films such as The Letter, Rafiki, Softie The Film and Boxed have been selected to screen and compete on prestigious international film festivals, including Cannes and Sundance film festivals. 

Filmmakers such as Toni Kamau, Wanjiru Njendu, Lupita Nyong’o, Wanuri Kahiu, Yvonne Muinde and Film Director and Founder of Docubox Judy Kibinge are members of the Oscar Academy—the elite institution that chooses which films to give the award for the annual Oscar Academy Awards and the most prestigious film awards in the world.

Sadly, some of the members of the Academy have had their  works banned by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) using old colonial laws and unconstitutional film guidelines that infringe the creative space. 

What KFCB should realise is that freedom of expression is the oxygen every creative breathes.

Without it, there is no life in any creative space. It is up to the censorship bodies to categorize creative works according to age groups that can consume them instead of banning them.

KFCB tends to overstep its mandate by banning creative output as opposed to classification. The board’s role as the issuer of film licences prior to filming is outrageous. 

The belief that CAP222 gives the board the authority to censor a film script and deny a film license based on a theme or synopsis amounts to censorship and goes against freedom of expression  guaranteed by the Constitution.

Mostly it is done without the knowledge of how a film director will block and shoot the scene.

However, the push by creatives to have a freer space through the repealing Film and Stage Play Act has led to the introduction of the Kenya Film Bill, an important development in the film sector in Kenya. 

The initiative behind the amendment is to make the Act more consistent with the Constitution and to enable it to address the evolving demands of the creative industry. 

If the Bill is passed by Parliament and assented into law, it will spur industry growth and contribute to synergies between agencies in the film industry by delineating their mandates and functions.

This will minimise duplication and support the prudent use of public resources. 

Some of the gains in the Bill that creatives should look forward to is the establishment of the Kenya Film Fund which is critical for the industry. 

The purpose of the Fund will be to support the promotion, development and growth of the film industry by supporting capacity building, development of film industry infrastructure, funding local production, enhancing marketing and distribution of films and promoting film festivals in the country.

Equally important is the establishment of the Kenya Film Academy. The academy will vest its management and governance in the Board of the Commission and be a centre of excellence for talent-based training and capacity building in the film industry.

The academy will largely benefit young filmmakers through offering training in cinematic and performing arts for the film industry.

It will also avail opportunities for talented individuals to realise their potential in producing and disseminating products in cinematic and performing arts for education, training, infotainment and commercial purposes. 

One hopes that the industry will play a major role in self-regulating and that the agencies will do all they can to build capacity and infrastructure. 

There is a lot of talent in Kenya and it should be given an opportunity to thrive. The Kenya Film Act can open avenues for artists by being facilitative during implementation.— The writer is the communication lead at Freedom of Expression

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