Kenya’s film industry: the next BIG Bang!

Addamms Mututa, the author, has spend amany years working in Riverwood film industry. He is finishing a Masters thesis focused on gender negotiation within Riverwood cinema.

Addamms Mututa, the author, has spend many years working in Riverwood film industry. He is finishing a Masters thesis focused on gender negotiation within Riverwood cinema.

The wall fan hooked on the wall whines nagging-ly as it struggles to counter the raging heat waves. The CRT monitor, dusty and dirty, leans precariously on the improvised table.  Scaling the three walls, stacks of Mini DVs plaster the usual surface… records of much effort and time. And just minutes before noon, the usual food vendor (a humble lady with a keen, sympathetic face) peeps in past the half vertical wooden door…

Leo niwaletee nini? (What would you have – for lunch – today?).

And the menu is generous but very convenient. For only Kshs. 50, we would have lunch.

On the fourth wall, Video CDs are craftily displayed… a tiny television is playing the popular film of the day. Half a meter across, a line of other similar businesses are lined up as if in a sweaty queue. Welcome to Kenya’s Riverwood Film Industry.

Just four square meters, many producers are using this small space to realize the unthinkable. And each week, numerous films are released to the ever increasing consumer market. With its low budget approach, this industry has grown tremendously and to date has over one hundred independent producers churning our thousands of productions per year. in a gross estimate, this industry is worthy more than one billion shillings.

Riverwood employs thousands of people, either directly or indirectly. The entire industry, confined to the length of River road in Nairobi city, consists of musicians, comedians, filmmakers, actors, video editors, camera operators and distribution merchants. Though many members double up their roles, the industry has gained momentum and its productions are now popular across the entire country.

Predictably, with sustained growth rate, this industry is evidently going to be a major key player in the national economy and thus development agenda. However, many challenges still hinder this possibility: piracy and lack of technical and financial support, for instance.

It is very hard to get funding from the lending institutions to finance a film budget here in Kenya. Banks shy away from film merchants and this has a negative impact considering that there are not many established funding organizations specifically focused on this sector.

Piracy too has dissuaded artists and producers from ambitiously engaging in film activities. With the sad trend where film key players pirate each other’s work, a lot of morale to re-invest in film has dwindled. This may be the beginning of a very unfortunate DECLINE.

But, for those who watched all the participants who turned up for the TUSKER PROJECT FAME 3 audition, you would know, like i do, that Kenya is seething with creative talent. With the natural landscape so beautiful, and the establishment of Kenya Film Commission as a film governing, regulating and supporting body, i am still optimistic…

Kenya’s film industry is headed the right way… and in a near future, it would match Nollywood, Bollywood, and (0who knows) even Hollywood! This is a cause worthy every effort.

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8 thoughts on “Kenya’s film industry: the next BIG Bang!

    • Hi Darwin, thanks for the comment. I am looking at four major possible actions which is all we need to spark the industry to life: 100% practical training on production and technology, entrepreneurial skills to enable marketing, minimal capital for equipments and government legislation to control piracy. We can do the first three if we join hands as a team; and we can persuade the government to do the fourth. Thanks.

  1. Hi Adamms Im a masters student. I would like to do a thesis on film making please advise me on the areas that I can exploit.
    thanks

  2. hi addams. i work for a magazine called film biz africa, a pan african magazine which promotes african film productions. i love the article that you have written about riverwood and we were wondering whether you would permit us to use it in our next edition. please do contact me as soon as possible on filmbizafrica@live.com

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