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From 1-11 November Africa’s film lovers and lovers of African films might like to head to London for the ‘Film Africa 2012’, the UK’s largest annual festival of African cinema and culture, in fact about the largest festival of its type anywhere.

Organised by the Royal African Society in association with London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Film Africa 2012 aims to celebrate the wealth, diversity and quality of African cinema and African stories, and also to give African films a London-wide platform to African and Diaspora film makers.


The 10-day event will have 70 amazing African films on show, 35 leading African filmmakers attending question and answer sessions, free professional workshops, and eight African music nights.

If you are in London at that time (Kenyans and fellow-Africans in the UK please note!) the Film Africa 2012 festival will be hosted by the Hackney Picturehouse, with screenings also at the BFI Southbank, Rich Mix in Shoreditch, The Ritzy in Brixton, Screen on the Green in Islington, and The South London Gallery.


Kenya’s very own Nairobi Half Life will open the film night with the Kenyan rising talent David Tosh Gitonga introducing it. Others from Kenya will include the award winning movie, Soul Boy, directed by Hawa Essuman, The Education Of Auma Obama, Fluorescent Sin, and Twende Berlin, a documentary about urban spaces and our relationship to them as told through the eyes of a troupe of African hip-hop artists.

As regular readers will know, the Kenya Forum has taken a great deal of interest in African film making and particularly the work of Kenya’s home-grown film industry (see recent postings, ‘Nairobi Half Life’, Oct. 23, ‘The Kenya Film Industry: Why Nollywood has the Edge’, July 31, and ‘There’s Room on the Stage for Kenya’s Budding Acting Talent’, June 19).


In 2008 some veteran Kenyan actors, among them Lupita Nyong’o, Peter King Mwania and Elly Omukubi , set out to establish the Kenya Actors Guild (KAG). The guild was registered under the Societies Act to look into Kenyan actors’ welfare but due to several issues, among them unfortunately the lack of commitment from the actors themselves, the guild never materialised.

However four years down the line and Kenyan actors have come to recognise the importance of a guild and last Saturday saw actors in Kenya congregate at the Kenya National Theatre to re-launch the Kenyan Actors Guild.

Actors worldwide are identified and protected by Guilds. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG now known as SAG-AFTRA after merging with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) being the most popular guild in the world.

Actors’ guilds play an important role in the theatre and film industry by protecting actors from exploitation and generally regulating the industry. A good number of Kenyan actors have lost out on international acting roles, not because they are not talented enough but simply because they do not belong to a guild.


Gerald Langiri, a dedicated Kenyan actor who is not just driven by the power to flourish in his acting career but also has a great passion to revolutionise the film industry in the country, has been a leading player in reviving the Kenyan Actors Guild. He is the founder of a forum that seeks to unite actors and keep them informed.

At the weekend launch Gerald Langari pointed out that in the past Kenyan actors didn’t understand the importance of a guild, or were simply afraid of its power.


Peter King (the current chairman of KAG), reacting to an experience narrated to those present by a renowned actress who was fired from a production when she disclosed to the producer that she was pregnant, also emphasised the benefits the guild would have to Kenyan actors. “Joyce’s case is not isolated and the guild will offer legal representation to its members”, he said.


The film industry in Kenya is picking up tremendously and as the chairman of the Kenya Film Commission (KFC), Peter Mutie puts it; “It’s only in Kenya where the people who bring money in the acting industry do not put it in their pockets”. The actors’ guild is therefore a great milestone in protecting actors’ interests.

With the re-birth of the actors’ guild, Kenyan actors can hopefully now be at par with the rest of actors in Africa who belong to guilds in their respective countries. These include the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) and the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN).

Kenya’s film industry is rising and having its actors belong to a guild, will go a great way in ensuring that the interests of actors are protected and advanced.


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