It’s tough staying relevant as a film critic in Kenya. Especially since I focus exclusively on Kenyan films. Kenyan films are rare. I simply have no films to review (check the date of my last review). Let me clarify this. I only review films that I know are available to the general public because I want my readers to absorb the review, go watch and then we have a discussion about like we like to do. This could either be through the cinemas or online. Hands up if you can remember the last time a Kenyan film screened at any of the few cinemas in Kenya.
While you try to remember that, I should add that I’m the only active film critic I know dedicated to Kenyan works. I can’t even form an association of film critics because I would need other people, wouldn’t I? Being alone makes it very easy to be overlooked but if we don’t have enough films, why, you would rightly ask, would we need more critics? I believe there is enough information out there about the industry that is of interest to Kenyans and the world and I can’t cover all of it alone. I am therefore embarking on a mission to producing competent film critics and writers. We need more blogs and maybe, just maybe, we could pump some vibrancy into our film scene.
The term ‘critic’ shouldn’t scare any filmmaker. I’m not malicious. Contrary to popular belief, critics don’t watch film looking for holes and weaknesses. We are on the same side here. Trashing a film is fun, (and easy), but fair assessment (though subjective) is what I promise. Filmmakers here should learn to invite critics for a press viewing of their films before they premiere. This will ensure word gets out and create some excitement around your film (and I get to watch a free movie).
It’s quite unfortunate that in conversations about the film industry happens, there is usually no mention of film critics. I find it weird that I get invited to the Durban International Film Festival, all expenses paid, but when I write to the Kenya Film Commission to involve film critics in Kalasha Awards, I get no reply. All those local films nominated for awards and subsequently screened in several towns would have benefited from reviews among other pieces of writing that might spin off from them. Our filmmakers need this kind of exposure.
Enough whining, I’m off to do my part in establishing a strong film criticism culture in Kenya.