Concomitants of socio-cultural exigencies on narrative preferences in the Kenyan “Riverwood” film
Keywords:film, Kenya, riverwood
In a report commissioned by the World Story Organization in 2008, Justine Edwards points out that storyline lies at the centre of problems that Kenyan films face in trying to “break down the wall preventing Kenyan films from being shown and celebrated beyond Kenyan borders” (2). This paper goes a step further to interrogate this observation through an analysis of three works by three representative Kenyan home grown film makers: Wandahuhu’s Njohera (Forgive Me), Simon Nduti’s Kikulacho (What Bites You) and Simiyu Barasa’s Toto Millionaire. These film makers have made films under the banner of a Kenyan film industry that has come to be informally known as Riverwood—the Kenyan filmindustry associated with Nairobi’s River Road Street where cheaply produced independent home videos are made in mass mainly by Kenyan film makers working with a Kenyan crew and cast. By measuring their works against narrative conventions established in classical cinema, this paper evaluates Kenyan home grown film standards as defined by the narrative choices made by the film makers. In so doing, it is essentially guided by narratological theories developed by the constructivist school of film criticism. Constructivist film theory is founded on the tenet that it is the reader (viewer) of the film text that constructs the story and meanings in the story using the clues that the film maker puts before him or her on the screen. Other relevant theoretical positions are applied as need arises to cater for the multidisciplinary nature of film as an art. The methodology used is textual analysis and interpretation, therefore qualitative in nature.
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