Lights, Camera, Action! Helping Children Take Control of Their Destinies

Lights, Camera, Action! Helping Children Take Control of Their Destinies

Lola Kenya Screen

For a week in August, Nairobi will fizzle with youthful creativity as Lola Kenya Screen hosts its annual audiovisual media festival, including the fifth Kids for Kids Africa Festival. More than 250 films from 102 countries will be shown to children and their families, and training workshops will be held to allow tomorrow’s generation to explore the power of filmmaking and all things audiovisual.

Ogova Ondego, director of the Kids for Kids Festival and managing trustee at Lola Kenya Screen, says the aim is to equip children and youth with the skills they need to create their own films and documentaries, and to appreciate all elements of audiovisual work.

“We focus on children and youth, first of all out of protest. When Lola Kenya Screen came on the scene in 2005, anyone aged 15 and below was non-existent in Kenya and eastern Africa… Secondly, we wanted to enable children and youth to take control of their own destinies by becoming their own creative and cultural entrepreneurs,” he told KenyaBuzz.

This year’s films address topical themes such as the global economic meltdown, the fight for freedom, how to turn lemons into lemonade, the celebration of one’s roots and coming of age. There will be a particular focus on the documentary genre. Among the awards presented will be the Golden Mboni Award for the Best Children’s Film.

But perhaps even more important than the screenings are the mentorship programmes in filmmaking, cultural journalism, critical appreciation, event organisation, creative writing and media literacy. The emphasis is on learning-as-you-do, with the children producing their own films, documentaries, and written reports as well as judging the films.

“Our hands-on mentorship is important because it equips the generation of today and tomorrow – children and youth – with the skills for their day-to-day living, even long after the festival,” says Ondego.

“They take those skills back to school and to their communities … What Lola aims for is to hand children the skills for fishing for themselves instead of us having to provide them with the fish, which isn’t sustainable as it would breed what is referred to as dependency syndrome,” he added.

Ondego said he hoped the children and youth trained by Lola Kenya Screen would also play their part in raising the profile of filmmaking in Kenya and the region. Despite the release of a number of critically acclaimed films in Kenya over the past 12 months – like Togetherness Supreme, Soul Boy and Ndoto za Elibidi – Ondego says the industry has a long way to go before realising its full potential.

“There is a big problem in getting a sufficient number of films from Kenya just to feed a film festival, let alone television broadcasting or cinema. Kenya is still deep in the woods as far as filmmaking is concerned,” he said.

“Even our affirmative approach that seeks to promote ‘local’ productions by setting aside certain sections of the festival for them hasn’t helped much,” he added.

Aside from running the annual festival, Lola Kenya Screen runs a weekly school outreach programme, a weekly community mobile cinema, monthly film forums and on-demand film programmes. Films made by children and youth at Lola Kenya Screen have been shown around the world and by the end of last year, Lola Kenya Screen had showcased more than 1,450 international films for children and youths.

So far, some 154 youngsters from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zimbabwe have acquired skills in filmmaking, film journalism and criticism. Lola Kenya has also produced more than 30 films, including several that have won plaudits on the international film circuit. One of their films won the Grand Prize at the 5th World Summit on Media and Children in 2007 while others were nominated for the best short documentary award and the best animation film award at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009.

This year, Happy Times by Elaine Nesbitt and Manani Ogres by Samuel Musembi, Joseph Hongo, Marcus Kang’ethe and Norrick Mwangi, have been selected to take part in the sixth Busan International Kids’ Film Festival in South Korea. But at home, the festival sometimes struggles to draw the kinds of audiences it would like.

“We are usually disappointed when our staff painstakingly but lovingly prepare this festival… only for a handful of people to turn up at the auditorium,” said Ondego.

“We encourage local filmmakers whose films are screening to be present. We encourage them to invite their families, colleagues and friends.”

The festival runs from August 8 – 13 at the Kenya National Theatre and in other areas around the city. Entry is free. You can also find Lola Kenya Screen on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.




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