We are in the Court, Where is the Ball?

July 10-11, are two days very memorable in Africa’s creative community. After AITEC Africa’s conference in Nairobi brought so many amazing talents and great minds together to share, deliberate and reflect on ways, approaches, tactics and best opportunities to spur creative economy development across Africa. This was a really wonderful conference.
One thing I learnt and got really spirited of is the realization that we could make it in our creative enterprises if we wanted to. Because, really, the conference had lots of advice and insights about “how to”. This could have easily passed away if I hailed from Hollywood or Nollywood or Bollywood, but I have spent near a decade in Nairobi’s Riveroad (where Riverwood – Kenya’s film industry draws its name from)… now I would not let all this slip from my mind.
About a month later, I realize I have not been able to solve a very troubling question in my mind. But first, a small privilege to lead astray.
Kenya’s film industry has been at crossroads (oops, excuse this punk inference, for lack of more decent word) for a while now. Way back in 2007, Kenya Film Commission was out there shaking the industry (the sleeping giant) to wake up. And for a while, I felt it had actually opened eyes and was showing first signs of getting on its feet. The Riverwood 20 was an amazing project; isn’t it sad it dissipated?
That’s not even the best question to ask now, because it is not facing “solution” but the problem. Amidst the crossing winds (active feature film makers raise hands up and ask: where can we get funding, where is our government to help?) and the government has already shown very positive commitment to the industry (the Kenya Film Commission, Department of Film Services, Kenya Copyright Board etc) exist to aid the industry grow.
So why are Kenyans not making movies? Definitely, someone somewhere is holding the key to piece this whole enigma together and break the binding code for this hitherto unceasing standoff.
To bow to the old idiom – the ball is in your court (literally meaning ‘It is someone’s turn to make the decision’) – I am without doubt that this merits some detailed surgery to clear things out. First, this suggests there is a ball, and there are parties interested in its whereabouts. In Kenya’s Film case, the ball would be ‘task of making success of the film industry’ and the parties would be “government, film sector players and investment firms”.
Now, what has been bothering my mind is the one question: where is our ball? Who really has it – or do we really have it? I will not even dare to answer it myself. Have you heard the following before?
King Arthur fought a tough war to earn their freedom. But his friend, Lancelot, was almost giving up the as they neared the harshest, final moment of liberation. Without hope, he pleaded with the King to give up on the dream of their freedom, to which the King told Lancelot, ‘You be my friend now and do not dissuade me. Seize the freedom you have earned and live it for the both of us. I cannot follow you, Lancelot. I now know that all the blood I have shed, all the lives I have taken have led me to this moment.’
Working with passionate talent – not tons of money or the top range facilities – is the key to success of our film industry. But in that team, there must be expertise, and leadership, and undying will. Riverwood will blossom, I feel it – Kenya’s film industry will bloom! Meanwhile, if you are the one having the ball, throw it out to the universal communal court.


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