Proposed Kenya Film Bill coming at proper time
Fifty-seven years after independence, Kenya has not had a substantive forward-thinking policy relating to film production, funding and distribution.
However, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology recently invited public participation of the Draft Kenya Film Bill 2020, a culmination of a long process that if approved and assented to, will become the Kenya Film Act 2020.
The aim of the Bill is to consolidate legislative framework of laws relating to the film industry; to provide for establishment, powers and functions of film industry entities and to provide for development, funding and regulation of the industry.
The Act is set to replace the Film and Stage Plays Act (Cap 222) enacted back in 1962.
The process of developing a consolidated framework for film development began in 2002 with a plan to develop a National Film Policy.
However, it was not until 2008 that an initial draft was developed and the final draft presented to Cabinet in 2015.
The then Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts Cabinet Secretary, Dr Hassan Wario stated, “the Policy seeks to ensure that Kenya strategically exploits its resources and places itself optimally in an increasingly globalized market for content development.”
Clearly, the evolution of the content creation industries and especially film, has not been lost on policymakers, who view the industry as a key economic development activity.
Of importance is to note that the National Film Policy is to be reviewed every five years, a deliberate attempt at keeping up with ever-changing industry developments.
The key objectives of the proposed Bill include consolidating laws that establish and govern the national film entities.
These are the Kenya Film Commission, whose mandate is to develop, promote and market the film industry locally and internationally; and the Kenya Film Classification Board, a regulator concerned with the creation, broadcasting, distribution and exhibition of films in the country.
Another objective is the establishment of the Kenya Film Academy, which currently exists as Kenya Film School, and will be concerned with offering cinematic and performing arts for the industry.
However, given the past history of government-run institutions, with the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication as an example, this function would be best left to private industry players.
Currently, Kenya has no institution that is accredited by CILECT, the industry association of global film schools, the quality benchmark of film and screen media education.
The most progressive objective of the Bill is the establishment of the Kenya Film Fund, a facility aimed at supporting capacity building, developing industry infrastructure, funding local productions and facilitating co-production agreements.
Presently, one of the key challenges facing local industry is getting Kenyan content to international producers who in turn can unlock funding in their respective countries.
Provision of development funds will go a long way in project development, generating pilots and facilitating representation at international film markets.
Film development also has the viable potential of complementing industries such as tourism, sports and ICT, positioning the country as an influential market in Africa.
Overall, the proposed Bill is overdue legislation that if properly implemented and satisfactorily administered, will provide a roadmap to guide Kenya towards being a global player in the creative industries. — The writer is Screen Media Producer — [email protected]