CineArts Afrika is a fully equipped production house based in Nairobi, Kenya. Our three decades of experience in filmmaking has informed our unique approach to storytelling. We have produced award winning feature films, documentaries and television series that have been recognized in Africa and beyond.
When I started CineArts Afrika in 1990, I was very clear about the films I wanted to focus on. This was partly informed by my previous work at the then Education Media Service at the Kenya Institute of Education, now Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.
I was privileged to have been born in an area where education was not only accessible but encouraged. The right to information, knowledge and overall education for all Kenyans can never be over emphasized. CineArts Afrika purposed to make films raising awareness on diverse issues. We focus on stories of people who inspire us and who we believe would inspire others, stories of events in our history that are worth retelling. We tell stories of people who may not be heard of otherwise. We make films that engage, entertain as well as educate.
It became evident early on, in the course of our work, that we were operating in an industry that was not understood. The Kenyan film industry was small, unknown and unsupported. An enabling environment was needed for us to operate optimally. Together with other independent filmmakers of the time, we formed an association that facilitated our engagement with government and enabled us to share a strategy to grow Kenya’s film industry. It was through these interactions that the Kenya Film Commission came to be.
CineArts Afrika started operations by hiring equipment for production of our work. It soon became clear that meeting deadlines would be a challenge as there were limited facilities with field and post-production equipment. We set out to equip ourselves with the necessary gear needed for production. It was a lengthy process given the state of the industry then, but we finally succeeded. This allowed us to conceptualize our own ideas, with confidence of our ability to deliver, and pitch them to partners for collaboration.
Working with Non-Governmental Organisations, UN agencies, development partners, the private and public sector over the years, CineArts Afrika’s work has covered a variety of subjects including the access to finance, entrepreneurship, the environment, gender-based violence, history, access to water and sanitation, among others.
In 2002 we produced our first feature films – Behind Closed Doors and The Price of a Daughter – addressing gender based violence. The films were well received, won awards and were broadcast widely. Screening these films to communities and getting their feedback emboldened us to continue on our chosen path. To raise awareness, give a voice to communities and make a difference, is crucial for our work. Our hope is that our films will continue to provoke discussions and influence change.
Of special note is Silence is Betrayal, a 5 minutes documentary which was used to commemorate the St Kizito Secondary School tragedy that occurred in 1991 in which 19 girls were killed and 71 others raped. This documentary, compiled from archive footage, was broadcast and screened to various targeted interest groups and used as an advocacy tool to lobby for the Sexual Offences Bill in Kenya. The Bill was passed by Parliament and came into law in July 2006. The success of this short documentary underlined the role of film as an effective tool for awareness creation. The experience during production, outreach and the outcome of this documentary validated CineArts decision on the choice of niche we wanted to fill.
Our next big project was production of a television series on women entrepreneurship. Turning Tide: Women Entrepreneurs in Africa documents the successful stories of African businesswomen through in-depth face to face interviews. The 13-episode series featured entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The series was broadcast in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, Uganda and across Africa on M-Net.
We produced a historical documentary, Monica Wangu Wamwere – The Unbroken Spirit, told using interviews and archive footage from colonial to independent Kenya. It explores the search for justice by a mother whose three sons were detained during the clamour for multi-party democracy in Kenya. The Unbroken Spirit was screened in festivals around the world and won First Prize, Best Documentary at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in Burkina Faso amongst others.
We have gained new perspectives and knowledge from creating and telling stories and documenting experiences about important issues facing not just those in our immediate communities but also the larger African society. Our work has shone a spotlight on untold stories of people and their contributions to our society.
The Kenyan film industry still faces challenges such as lack of funding and distribution possibilities that make economic sense for the producers among others. Despite these obstacles, development of audiovisual and cinema and television in Africa is gaining ground.
Keeping abreast of and participating in conversations taking place within Africa and elsewhere through participating in film festivals, conferences and other forums has created opportunities for CineArts Afrika to collaborate with like-minded people around the world.
Our vast experience in film production is propelling us to explore possibilities of expanding our horizons. CineArts Afrika’s understanding of the industry, its expertise in the creative and technical aptitude and the ability to lead and work on large projects has helped us stay the course. We have learnt a lot from the stories we have told. Each project challenges us to improve our storytelling skills. We work with professionals and a wide pool of experts. We have established a large network within Africa for collaborations.
CineArts Afrika’s focus remains unchanged. As we continue to produce interesting, entertaining and educational content in Kenya and Eastern Africa on a variety of well-researched topics, and reaching a widespread audience, we intend to expand our scope, incorporating a continental perspective.
We have worked closely with filmmakers from across Africa. The clarion call from every corner of our continent is that we need to tell our own stories, in our own words and perspectives. CineArts Afrika is making its contribution in reclaiming our space and our narrative. We continue to contribute to the movement of African audiovisual and cinema storytellers that celebrate Africa and being African.