Therefore, Reimagining Kenyan Cinema seeks to situate current scholarship on Kenyan Cinema within the ongoing debates in national and contemporary global film studies. It thus advocates for diverse methodologies, critical tools and theoretical perspectives in interrogating Kenyan film. This approach is premised on the realization that critical discussions on film should lead out of the films themselves towards matters of aesthetics, culture, history and society. The cumulative effect of this approach is that it allows for the presentation of a simultaneously synchronic and diachronic approach to the study of Kenyan cinema. While individual chapters will provide in-depth analyses of particular films, historical moments in Kenyan and key film texts, the chapters as a whole will cohere into a well-grounded and deeply informative collection of original contributions on the practice of Cinema in Kenya.
Table Of Contents
- About the editors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Foreword (Danson Sylvester Kahyana)
- Preface (Charles Kebaya and Christopher Joseph Odhiambo)
- Notes on Contributors
- Chapter One: History of Cinema in Kenya (Edwin Nyutho)
- Chapter Two: The Rise and Growth of Riverwood (Edwin Nyutho)
- Chapter Three: Making Films in 21st-Century Kenya: A Personal Journey (Bob Nyanja)
- Chapter Four: Film Distribution and Marketing Trends in Kenya (Charles Kebaya)
- Chapter Five: Subjecthood and Nationhood in Bob Nyanja’s Malooned (Boneace Chagara)
- Chapter Six: Reading the Uncanny in the Re-imagination of the Post-Colonial Kenyan Nation in Malooned and Ni Sisi (Christopher Joseph Odhiambo)
- Chapter Seven: (Re)imagining Ethnic Politics in Kenya through Film (Violet Nasambu Barasa)
- Chapter Eight: Revisiting the Past, Envisioning the Future: An Allegorical Reading of From a Whisper (2008) and Something Necessary (2013) (Jacqueline Ojiambo)
- Chapter Nine: Kenyan Cinema and Intercultural Communication (Peter N. Mose)
- Chapter Ten: Mediating Everyday Violence through the Film, Otto The Blood Bath (2009) (Keziah Wangui Githinji and Emmanuel Shikuku Tsikhungu)
- Chapter Eleven: Performing Identities in Emerging Kenyan Screen Stories: Reading the Meanings of “Man” in Machawood Festival’s Wakamba Forever and Love Daggers (Fredrick Mbogo)
- Chapter Twelve: Women Feature Filmmaking in Kenya (Charles Kebaya and Gloria Kemunto Mokaya)
- Chapter Thirteen: Judy Kibinge: An Interview (Jacqueline Ojiambo)
- Chapter Fourteen: Visibilizing Morality in Kenyan Film (Susan Gitimu)
- Chapter Fifteen: Transient Figures and Moral Ambiguity in Kenya’s Fugitive Cinema (Boneace Chagara)
- Chapter Sixteen: Censorship and Kenyan Cinema (Robert Wesonga)
This collection of chapters testifies to the immense strides Kenya has taken to establish not just a film industry but also an accompanying critical culture. This is important because, for a long time, the production of artistic works has always marched way ahead of the production of criticism on them, as it is glaringly clear in the area of the short story and that of children’s fiction. There are many dancers in these areas, so to speak, but very few dance critics to authoritatively comment on the style and innovations of the dance being employed and how they are effectively or ineffectively bringing out the messages being communicated. This will no longer be the case in Kenyan film studies, thanks to this profound work.
Kenya’s experience in film-making has been a heroic journey that has seen excellent films made, many of which have won important awards at national and international festivals. Having a critical volume on these films is a wonderful thing in at least three ways: it celebrates the films and their makers; it raises the films’ and film-makers’ profiles through the agency of criticism; and it engages with the films’ subjects and aesthetics, thereby teaching us (film students and lovers) about what is happening in the Kenyan film scene in terms of both the subjects being tackled and the craft with which this is being done. And in Bob Nyanja’s chapter, we have the privilege of learning from the guru as he recounts the key highlights of his film-making journey.
←vii | viii→The book covers many interesting areas including film-making, film distribution, piracy, and censorship—a very important topic given the many laws that many African countries are enacting to curtail the freedom with which artists share their ideas. We all remember what happened to the film Stories of Our Lives (2014). After its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it got banned by the Kenyan Film Classification Board for, among other things, allegedly promoting homosexuality. Its executive producer, George Gachara, got arrested by the police for allegedly shooting the film without a license. It is heartening that in this book a film with a queer plotline, Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki (2018), has been given critical attention. This attention is important in at least two ways: First, it testifies to homosexuality as a fitting subject of creative investment just like any other; and two, it denies the state censor and his or her office the authority to have the last word on matters artistic.
To my mind, this book is the first of its kind in the East African region. I hope that very soon others like it will follow in Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Sudan. Reading it brings to my mind Prof. Chris L. Wanjala’s Standpoints on African Literature: A Critical Anthology (1973), which proved foundational in literary studies to the extent that close to 50 years after it was published, it is still on our shelves. I have no doubt that this collection of chapters, which could as well be given the title, Standpoints on Kenyan Film: A Critical Anthology, will be on our shelves for a very long time. I am certain that you will enjoy reading it as I have, and that you will learn many lessons from it.
I congratulate Dr. Charles Kebaya and Prof. Christopher Joseph Odhiambo, and all the authors, on a job beautifully done. Your work will enrich debates not just in the area of film studies but also those in literary and cultural studies since most of you read films as both literary and cultural products.
Danson Sylvester Kahyana (PhD)
Department of Literature, Makerere University
Kenyan Cinema provides one of the most striking case studies in the growth and development of film in Eastern Africa. The film industry has grown tremendously at the turn of the twenty-first century. Notably, there has been a significant increase in the number of domestic film productions, film screenings, film audiences, and film festivals in the country. Indeed, Kenya has become one of Africa’s major film markets. Kenyan actors, actresses, and films are increasingly entering and featuring in global films and markets, and are connecting with international audiences in commercial cinemas and at major international film festivals. Adding to this impressive success is an upsurge in the number of tertiary institutions training in film and a corresponding surge in the number of students pursuing film studies in and outside the country currently. In the academic circles, interest in Kenyan Cinema as a serious scholarly subject has grown exponentially. The evolution of the Kenyan Cinema scholarship is noteworthy.
Despite this tremendous growth and a quantum leap in Kenyan Cinema studies, there exists no accessible and readable text that covers canonical film texts and trends for students and general readers alike. For instance, Judy Kibinge, Wanuri Kahiu, and Bob Nyanja are among many film directors and producers in Kenya whose cinematic treasures require scholarly reflection and documentation. Even so, there exists no textbook offering a systematic and comprehensive history, ←ix | x→genres, and movements of Kenyan Cinema to date. This groundbreaking volume stakes and provides a trajectory for the future direction of Kenyan cinema studies.
We can discern significant staking of Kenya cinema in the first four chapters of this volume, which primarily focus on the history of film production, distribution, and marketing in Kenya. In Chapter One, Edwin Nyutho traces the history of cinema in Kenya from travelogues and adventure films in the colonial times to the contemporary practice. Nyutho’s reading of the history of film in Kenya also explores the establishment of mobile cinema, practices of film production after independence, and the legal and institutional frameworks supporting the film industry in Kenya. In Chapter Two, Nyutho provides us with the rise and growth of Riverwood while in Chapter Three, Bob Nyanja shares his personal experiences in filmmaking in Kenya. In Chapter Four, Charles Kebaya examines film distribution and marketing models in Kenya over the years and the influence of digital technologies on the circulation of film in the country.
Since its inception, film as a medium plays a vital role in fostering nationalism by defining and reinforcing the sociocultural, economic, and political values of a country. Chapter Five to Eight examine interactions between cinema and nationhood in Kenya. While nationalism can be about many things, Boneace Chagara investigates how Bob Nyanja’s film, Malooned, provokes national discourses through the evocation of cinematic claustrophobia thereby showing how individual subjects fight for freedom and self-determination. In Chapter Six, Christopher Joseph Odhiambo focuses on how the uncanny is used as a strategy to deconstruct ethnic myths that characterize citizenship, nationhood, and nationness using two films, Malooned and Ni Sisi. In Chapter Seven, Violet Nasambu Barasa undertakes a textual exegesis of Judy Kibinge’s Something Necessary, showing how the film articulates and narrates ethnic politics that characterize the Kenyan nation. Using allegory as a trope in reading two films, From a Whisper and Something Necessary, Jacqueline Ojiambo shows how the films use past historical events to help shape our sense of nationhood and envision the future of a nation.
Cinema has been at the vanguard in foregrounding various issues in the country. Over the years, the film has represented various cultural, sociopolitical, historical, economic, as well as technological changes in the country. Peter N. Mose, in Chapter Nine, shows how cinema has been at the forefront in fostering intercultural communication in multilingual Kenya. In Chapter Ten, Keziah Wangui Githinji and Emmanuel Shikuku Tsikhungu show how film mediates violence as an everyday experience in society in the film Otto the Blood Bath. Using Wakamba Forever and Love Daggers, Fred Mbogo explores the performance of masculinities in cosmopolitan and urban Kenya in Chapter Eleven. In Chapter Twelve, Charles Kebaya and Gloria Kemunto Mokaya explore and visibilize how ←x | xi→independent female filmmakers engage with the past, reflect on the present, and express their vision for the future through film. In Chapter Thirteen, Jacqueline Ojiambo engages Judy Kibinge in a detailed introspection of her films, personal realities, and sociopolitical undercurrents that have shaped her film oeuvre.
The country has witnessed unending debates regarding the role of films in shaping and influencing moral values in society. Conflicting and unending debates from various stakeholders such as religious leaders questioning the values, attitudes, and virtues depicted in films has been witnessed in the country. Nevertheless, Susan Gitimu, in Chapter Fourteen, shows how film foregrounds various moral issues in society using select films, 18 Hours, Disconnect, Family Meeting, and You Again. In Chapter Fifteen, Boneace Chagara examines the moral ambiguity of film in Kenya. Using two films, Rafiki and Otto the Bloodbath, Robert Wesonga, in Chapter Sixteen, links the moral debate to censorship showing how its practice stifles creativity and representation in film.
Using diverse methodologies, critical tools, and theoretical perspectives in interrogating Kenyan film, Reimagining Kenyan Cinema situates current scholarship on Kenyan Cinema within the ongoing debates in contemporary global film studies. This approach is premised on the realization that critical discussions on film should lead out of the films themselves towards matters of aesthetics, culture, history, and society. The cumulative effect of this approach is that it allows for the presentation of a simultaneously synchronic and diachronic approach to the study of Kenyan cinema. While individual chapters provide in-depth analyses of particular films, historical moments in Kenyan and key texts, the chapters as a whole cohere into a well-grounded and deeply informative collection of original contributions to Kenyan Cinema.
Charles Kebaya & Christopher Joseph Odhiambo
The journey of realizing this edited volume has not been an easy one. When the idea of this book project began and we released a call for book chapters in early 2020, an overwhelming number of scholars on Kenyan cinema responded. However, while working on the manuscript, a couple of these scholars dropped off or were moved to another volume. The editors are immensely grateful and thankful to all the contributors to this volume for their tenacity, patience, and willingness to constantly revise their chapters when called upon. As the editors, we are proud to be working with you.
Every chapter in this volume underwent a double-blind peer-review process, and the comments went a long way in shaping and improving the chapters herein. The editors are, therefore, eternally grateful to all the peer reviewers of this volume. Similarly, the editors are indebted to the three assessors, contacted by the publisher, who reviewed the initial proposal for this book project and recommended that this edited volume will be an important intervention in cinema studies in Kenya.
Finally, we acknowledge that this book is the outcome of research conducted within the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bayreuth, funded by the Deutsche Forshungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (German Exchange Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy- EXC2052/1-390713894.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2022 (October)
- Nationhood Nationness Subjecthood Cinema Morality Censorship Marketing Feature Film Performimg Identities mediation Intercommunication REIMAGINING KENYAN CINEMA Charles Kebaya Odhiambo Christopher Joseph Reimagining
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XVIII, 216 pp.