Lessons from Nairobi’s European Film Festival
Studies show that one can enhance the experience of watching a movie by watching it with other people, even if they are strangers. However, most movie-goers in Nairobi would agree that going to the cinema is an expensive process. This is especially true if you have a date. It was, therefore, a breath of fresh air when The Alliance Francaise in Nairobi hosted the 24th European Film Festival in May 2015, where attendees were only charged Ksh. 50/- to watch award-winning movies. These films were from fifteen countries around Europe and the event was a success, with a high level of attendance over the festival period. The idea of cutting the price of a movie ticket by a tenth is, therefore, a great way to encourage Kenyans to go to the theater and cultivate a healthy film culture. It must be noted, though, that the subsidy in price was largely possible because of the number of sponsors involved in the festival. It is therefore necessary for more corporations to invest in such cultural events.
On my way to the European Film Festival, I half expected all the movies to be of the film noir genre. However, it was exciting to find that several genres of films were shown, with some suited to family viewing. The use of different genres within the festival served to communicate messages to different audiences and helped Kenya foster relations with the different countries represented.
Additionally, it was interesting to see the influence that African culture has had abroad, through the depiction of the African diaspora in some films (and not just as the bad guys, mind you). The festival also managed to rattle the stereotype that only the US is capable of churning out good movies. This was done by showcasing full-length, award-winning films originating from (rather than set in) the rest of the developed world. These provided us with fresh perspectives and new voices to learn from, rather than those that we have become accustomed to.
Several movies had underlying, thought-provoking questions on issues such as racism and innovation so as to spark political and cultural conversations. The success of the European Film Festival serves to give the hope that one day more of such cultural events will be held, and that they will gain popularity among the African youth. After all, showcasing movies from different parts of the world serves to remind us that at the end of the day, regardless of our race, religion, or nationality, we are all the same and tend to face similar challenges.