The creative sector in the country has received a welcome boost with the launch of a film hub at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT).
The hub, which will be a training and production centre for animation, film making and gaming, was launched in a colourful ceremony at the university.
The centre is a collaboration between DeKUT and the Kenya Film Commission (KFC).
It is an initiative by KFC which is seeking to devolve filmmaking and create opportunities at the grassroots.
More hubs will be set up in Mombasa, Kisumu and other places as KFC plans to make the sector a key economic pillar in the counties.
Previously, anyone wishing to learn or produce animation content had to travel to Nairobi where the best colleges and facilities are found. This is not only inconveniencing but also expensive for those from outside the capital.
According to KFC Chief Executive Officer Timothy Owase, the new programme is part of the government’s efforts to create employment in all sectors through training.
The hub at DeKU and the others which will be set up will not be used by university students only. They will also be open to train the public. They will not only facilitate training but also production of animated cartoons and films, motion picture films and games.
Animation and gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry, especially in the west, but it has not caught on in most African countries due to lack of opportunity for potential content creators.
Most of the animated content on local television channels as well as the games played on computers and other gaming portals are foreign, both in concept and delivery. Any local material that one comes across will most likely be of lower quality than the foreign-generated material. There are a few impressive local animations (Mbugua and that Faiba commercial come to mind) but more needs to be done.
Kenyans have had to rely on foreign cartoons for entertainment and learning materials.
Whereas as such animated movies such as Avatar, Ice Age, Expendables, Sonic and The Lion King have been blockbusters in Kenyan cinemas and homes, they are all produced in Hollywood.
When the producers of The Lion King were making the film, they chose Naivasha’s Hells Gate as one of the prime shooting locations. But all the billions it went to Hollywood.
Even during crucial moments such as the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, most of the animated information is foreign.
According to Information and Communications Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, more local content of high quality will only be available if accessible and affordable facilities such as the DeKUT film hub are put in place. The pioneer hub at the university is thus very appropriate, said the CS who attended the launch.
“We all know that there is employment and money in this industry but we have to start at the beginning and walk the talk,” said Mr Mucheru.
The CS said there is need to train students in things that can get them employment after they graduate.
“Such courses as this can enable many Kenyans to work from home, a reality that has been brought home by Covid-19,” said Mucheru.
At the same time, Mr Owase said that the devolution of film hubs will enable more young people to learn the art of film making and enable them to exploit their knowledge of their home counties to generate relevant and entertaining content suitable for their regions, which can even be produced in local languages.
The new hub will serve as a training ground for the university’s students as well as any other learners from Nyeri and neighbouring counties, said the university’s Vice Chancellor Ndirangu Kioni.
To jumpstart the project, KFC has provided various filmmaking, editing and production equipment worth Sh15 million. The university will provide experts to guide students through the various film courses in the programme. Among them is Prof Jeanne Bosco, who is the director of Dedan Kimathi Siemens Training Centre.
During the launch last Thursday, Prof Bosco displayed how technology, through animation, can be used to teach in diverse fields such as engineering. A former Dedan Kimathi University student, Donald Njeru, showcased his animations, which he creates for clients abroad.