By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 13 May for 14 May 2019)
This year’s 28th edition of the European Film Festival (EFF) is proving to be unprecedented for its quality and quantity as well as its diversity, variety and inclusion of Kenyan as well as international films.
In all, there are 57 films being shown throughout the month of May. The Festival opened on May 4th and is running every day through May 27th. The films are being shown at twelve locations, including two community cultural centres and featuring films from three Kenyan film festivals.
Thanks to the curatorial design of Nyambura Waruinga, this year’s EFF aims to be more accessible to local audiences than ever before. This is partly because films are being shown at many more venues than ever before. (For previous years, films were only shown at Alliance Francaise. But back then, EFF, like the European Union itself, was much smaller and had fewer films to share.)
They are also being screened in several local venues such as the Dagoz Art Bar in Dagoretti, the Huipalas Rooftop Hub in Korogocho and Maasai Mbili in Kibera. At the same time, they are also being shown in various venues in and around the CBD, including Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institute, Kenya National Theatre and Nairobi National Museum as well as The Alchemist in Westlands, Michael Joseph Centre in Safaricom, the August 7th Memorial Park near the Railways and Creative Garage. And this year for the first time, EFF films are also being screened at two IMAX cinemas, one in Diamond Plaza, the other at Kenya Cinema.
All the screenings are free of charge. And this year, there will be far more participation by Kenyan filmmakers, including those coming from Machawood, Slum Film Festival, Lake International Pan African Film Festival and Kenya Scriptwriters Guild.
Local filmmakers are showing films like The Cut, Kidnapped, Kati Kati and 18 Hours as well a wide range of locally-produced film shorts and animations. What’s more, both local and a few international filmmakers will be involved in panel discussions, workshops and master classes being conducted throughout the festival.
The European films are also wide-ranging in their scope and variety. The genres we are having a chance to see range from thriller, drama and comedy to documentary, virtual reality and historically-based films to animation and film shorts.
When the European Film Festival began back in the early 1990s, the films came primarily from European Union countries which were relatively few at the time. But 28 years later, the EU itself has grown by leaps and bounds.
Not all 28 EU countries are being represented cinematically this year, although most of them are. What’s more, several non-EU countries are taking part, including Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, and Ukraine.
The Festival is offering a rare opportunity to get an insider’s perspective on each of the countries – and Kenyan counties – being represented. For example, it will be fascinating to see what’s an Austrian filmmaker’s idea of ‘The Best of All Worlds’ or what an Irish director has created ‘In the Name of Peace.’ The French thriller, ‘The Corporation’ also sounds excellent as do Kenyan films like Jim Chuchu’s ‘Let this be a Warning’ and Samuel Karanja’s film short ‘Chocolate City’.
This year, one should try to see as much of the Festival as possible. It has many award-winning films that are also quite new. However, it won’t be that easy since the screenings are spread out across the city, and given the traffic in Nairobi, one will have to give one’s self extra time if you’re heading to a venue that is new to you. But at least one can try to explore sides of the Nairobi that you may have never been to before.
One only wished that this year’s EFF film schedule had been widely circulated before or at least on the day the festival opened. Better still, that all the films and their locations had been placed as posters in several strategic public sites as well as on several social media platforms. As of now, I could only find the schedule on Facebook where there is one link labeled ‘catalogue’. But one is better than none. https://issuu.com/eudelken/docs/eff_catalogue?fbclid=IwAR1fS2QZERTyzg0LhvO1Ay4UTq_WTYKiJFmt9GjYQOKJzqDO4mQcx5wNRYs.