Kenya has a thriving – but informal – film industry. Until now, local film makers in Riverwood (Nairobi’s Hollywood) mainly cater for small local ‘living room’-style cinemas in Nairobi. Charles Liburd wants to raise the bar by establishing a pan-African film production company. “From script-writing to producing, filming and distribution – professionalising all aspects will help build an industry that offers a real future to young Kenyan film makers”, he claims. Club Africa interviewed Charles Liburd, about the Keyan film industry.
Kenyan film making is a vivid industry. The industry was estimated to be worth 72 million in 2016, employing more than 100,000. Young film makers are trying to make a living by shooting movies with very little means and no budget. Often, there is no scenario. The story is usually built on stories about love, betrayal, good and bad and other universally popular themes like comedy and crime. Most film makers produce dozens of these ultra-low budget films each year that get shown in video halls, small shacks in slum areas of which it is said there about 4,500 in Kenya. The films are also distributed on DVD; the practice of producing illegal low-quality copies is wide-spread.
Charles Liburd, a British national who founded and runs No Money No Cry (NMNC) Films, and Dutch film producer Joggem Simons, intend to bring change, with a pan-African production company that produces and distributes local films via online networks, TV and mobile networks.
What potential do you see?
“For many years I have been working in Africa as a script consultant – teaching script-writing classes in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Senegal – and as writer and producer. In those years, I have been privileged to witness not only the ability of the film makers, but also their eagerness to learn and adapt quickly. Though they are underfunded, under-appreciated and under-resourced, their drive is refreshing and exciting. I want to boost the industry and offer them an environment for a more structured approach to all aspects of filmmaking.”
“Much in the way I did in 2009, when I made films in Kenya with the aim of training people. Not in class, but on the job, in Riverwood, the area of River Road where the industry started. This is the Kenyan equivalent of Nigeria’s Nollywood film scene. There, you will find hundreds of filmmakers with no formal education that have proven that they can make really popular movies. I think that we can make a difference and bring talented film makers from this informal setting to a real, formal Kenyan film industry. A properly-funded film production company is what I envision.”
What do you hope to achieve?
“In short: to start a company that help make good films for Kenyan and African audiences as well as to develop the quality of local film making. The idea is to make local language and English language films on an ongoing basis. Different from the current practice when films are shot at high pace – every film finished brings in some money – we want film makers to learn and improve every aspect of their work, for a better-quality product that may reach larger audiences.”
Your intentions are both commercial and social?
“Making films for Africa requires relatively low financial input, offers returns in a relatively short time and offers jobs the same time. There is a lot of talent among local film makers. They need structure and guidance, as well as the funding that allows them to put quality over quantity, by focusing on improving every aspect of creating good movies. Preferable in local languages, possibly moving to English – and with the vision to reach all Africa in the future.”
What is the outlook for your plans?
“There is a market for Kenya-produced films for both local and African audiences. I see a strong interest among Africans to see locally produced stories and film. There is also the African diaspora. Africans in Europe and the US love to watch films in their own language online. Provided we raise the bar. Fortunately, online distribution is becoming more professional, specifically in Nigeria. Smaller online distributors are beginning to emerge. There is so much opportunity!”
“We are in the early stages of funding the production company. So far, we succeeded to attract the interest of a number of film makers and producers in The Netherlands and welcome other investors. We still have a long way to go and are eager to enter discussions with future partners.”
Interested in investment or partnership? Contact Charles Liburd.
Photo credits: Charles Liburd