Wednesday, June 1, 2011



Asha Mwilu, Director 'Organs'

Zainab Wandati, Writer/Producer 'Organs'
The 46th edition of what is quickly becoming my favorite monthly event went down at the Goethe Institut this Monday the 30th of May and as I expected, it didn't disappoint; Except perhaps in its attendance(Why don't more people know about this forum?). On exhibition was Asha Mwilu's directorial debut film 'Organs' shot as a student project in USIU in partnership with Zainab Wandati who also wrote and produced the film. Being a forum where the work of young upcoming directors is highlighted, it was Asha who was on the hot seat and the lights dimmed for 30 minutes of this story:

An unemployed family man with an expectant wife is kidnapped in Nairobi city center during the height of the body-organ-business rumors. His kidnappers want to extract and sell his internal organs but unfortunately for them, he is diabetic. He has seen their faces though and thus they must end his life but one of them, the only woman among them actually, makes a connection with him (courtesy of a flashback in which a man saves her wearing a bangle just like the one he wears) and decides to save his life. The plan doesn't go smoothly and the lady dies trying to save him but at least he gets away to join his family.The main culprit, the boss of the thugs also gets away leaving no clues as to who he was and where/how his business runs.

Notable right from the beginning is the cinematography and editing quality. It's almost no surprise when Asha reveals at the end of the film that both jobs were done by the same person, Chris Sang, whose cinematography demoreel can be viewed here. The shots and edits are creative and communicative showing an eye for both narrative and aesthetic detail, mark my words: Chris Sang is one DOP to look out for. Nick Ndeda(King in NTV's Higher Learning) gives perhaps the most notable performance among the actors playing the role of one of the kidnappers with a slightly exaggerated sense of 'bad-assness'. Ironically, at the end he gets killed by the girl. The only problems that stood out enough to be noted and questioned were a few scriptwriting loopholes in the areas of exposition and character development.

A section of the film enthusiasts in attendance on Monday 31/5/11
 Exposition is the provision of background information to educate an audience about the plot, character, setting, and theme of a film or story. It helps to write in exposition scenes so as to allow audiences to fully understand the diegesis (the world the filmmaker wishes to immerse them into). In the case of 'Organs', several audience comments seemed to agree that not enough exposition was given for the audience to understand the period in Nairobi during which the story is set and the public feeling then. Also, the flashback that drives the girl kidnapper to turn on her friends is not properly explained in the film especially since it suggests some sort of connection between her and the protagonist who doesn't seen to remember it. It's a great lesson for scriptwriters on this forum then, me included: PROVIDE ENOUGH EXPOSITION!
*See what I did there, I just gave you some exposition on exposition!!*

Character development was also cited as a shortcoming as the protagonist of the film, the victim of the kidnapping, seems to be much less an important character than the lady kidnapper whose transformation from villain to heroine was a greater emotional moment for most of the audience than the protagonist's escape. This suggests a weakness in the development of the protagonist and his establishment as the main character of the film.

Notable too in the film was the quality of the visual effects that the subject matter of the film necessitated. All the sequences involving injury, blood, action and gore were carried out surprisingly well and came off looking realistic and believable. By local standards, 'Organs' has probably the best visual effects I've seen as yet and the fact that it was done on a student budget is to be taken into account too. As Asha clarified, some of the visual effects sequences were pulled off with help from internet tutorials by kids much younger than them. A firm reminder to local filmmakers and actors that knowledge and experience are gained by going out and doing what you love first then worrying about budgets and costs later...
Mr. Charles Manyara, HOD Film Training at KIMC
 In attendance at the event was Mr. Charles Manyara, HOD Film Training at KIMC and he lauded the film as being a noteworthy student achievement pointing out however that more students need to enter such films into local contests such as Kalasha and KIFF which have all introduced student film categories for competition. At the last Kalasha Awards, KIMC student film 'Lumbasi' won the category but with limited competition as Mr. Manyara himself pointed out. Also in attendance were students from Daystar University who will shortly be exhibiting their own productions at the forum. FilmKenya will be there to share in the experience.

If student films are a learning platform then 'Organs' is a grade-A class project by my reckoning. It is the product of a group of very talented students who are definitely ready to graduate to bigger films. A member of the audience thought the ending of the film seemed a bit suggestive of a sequel in the works but that notion was quickly dismissed by Asha, "I already told that story, it's already out there. If I were to get a bit of cash to do another film, it would not be Organs." Well Asha we're waiting for it here at FilmKenya, whatever it is you intend to do next. Just as we're waiting for the next projects to involve Chris Sang and Zainab Wandati in the capacities of DOP and scriptwriter/producer respectively. The lessons learned in the making of 'Organs' will definitely show and if 'Organs' is anything to go by, their next films will be quite something to see. But don't take it all from me, make sure you watch 'Organs' if you can and form your own opinion. I enjoyed both the film and the discussion the forum afforded and though you can't get the latter, the former might come your way one day. It'll be 30 minutes of your time well spent.

A while back I attended the 43rd Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum and was treated to an exhibition of the works of a young, then relatively unknown filmmaker, Zipporah Nyaruri. One of the films she exhibited there was 'Zebu and the Photofish' which since then has enjoyed an enviable run at several international film festivals including FESPACO and the much publicized AMAAs garnering some rave reviews along the way not to mention landing her a much coveted spot in the 2011 edition of the Berlinale Talent Campus(or is it Durban?). She was actually in attendance at this week's forum and her two cents for the 'Organs' filmmakers was "Always do the best you can whether it's a student film or a sponsored project, you never know what might come of it" I guess she was speaking from experience. It might seem that the forum is fast becoming the place to sample upcoming Kenyan filmmaking talent before everyone else gets to and if for that reason only, clear your calendars every last Monday of the month at 6:00pm. The place is Goethe Institut and the event is the Lola Kenya Screen Film Forum.
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  1. Great forum!!!getting feedback on art is crucial in ensuring that we have superior content as writers, filmmakers, producers, directors e.t.c cant wait for the next one...Exposition, diegesis...mmmmhhh learning!

  2. Great read. Again I say great job Film Kenya. Your writing skills are impeccable.
    Very informative and makes for a good read. Sure to make it for the next Lola Screening

  3. Good read. I always try remember to attend but I keep forgetting. I suggest creating a Facebook group through which u can be sending reminders

  4. Thanks for the feedback Joan, Cyril and New Breed. Cyril I might just take you up on that offer but I'll suggest it to Lola's Ogova Ondego kwanza we see what he says...

  5. Great read! And yes, something should be done so that we are aware of the events / forums like these. But you did a good job of summarizing it for us :)