ACTSCENE: Kenyans should do more films than TV shows, says Mark Maina

Saturday November 11 2017

Mark Maina is well known for the short film

Mark Maina is well known for the short film Neophobia which was selected as the only African movie that was screened at this year’s prestigious 70th Cannes Film Festival France. PHOTO| COURTESY 

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Mark Maina: Kenyans should do more films than TV shows

He is well known for the short film Neophobia which was selected as the only African movie that was screened at this year’s prestigious 70th Cannes Film Festival France.

The 17 minute film was selected by the festival’s Short film corner panel and Creative Minds Group. Mark Maina Spoke to ActScene on why he prefers to delve into different genres with unique elements and whimsical storytelling.

Who is Mark Maina and what motivated you to get into Film?

I’m  from Nakuru and chose to pursue a more traditional academic route; I took Computer Science as my major at the University of Nairobi where I graduated in 2013.

My passion for film began in my first year in campus, where I started crafting visual effects, inspired by a behind the scenes featurette to the 2002 film The Bourne Identity.

The response I got from family and friends about these visuals made me realise that I had a talent for story-telling. I got involved in an NGO-sponsored film-making program in Kiambu where I was crowned Best Director, Student and Editor.

I’m also thankful that short films which I have written and directed have also gone on to win international awards. I still maintain a day job however, working as a software developer.

Who are some of the most critical personalities you got to engage with at the Cannes Film Festival?

Barry Jenkins, the writer and director of Moonlight, the film that took home this year’s Oscar for Best Picture. I also met an executive at Paramount Pictures with whom I’m currently exchanging emails, regarding a current project. I can’t say much about the project, but just that it’s a mix of film-noir and neo-noir thriller. I also met with the Bilateral Affairs Advisor, International Policy Unit at the Centre for National Cinema in France and we are talking of co-production for a science fiction film.

Why do a good number of locally produced films end up premiering internationally instead of right here at home in Kenya?

I honestly think it’s because we don’t have an established or dedicated commercial film industry for locally produced content. Even beyond that, most of these films are often produced with the intention of exposing our work, that is, through various film festivals and film competitions which then become the priority.

With such an opportunity, were you able to secure any commitments from either the Film fraternity at Cannes or the Kenya Film Classification Board which sponsored your trip?

Yes. The meeting in Paris with Julien Ezanno, the Bilateral Affairs Advisor, International policy Unit at the Centre for National Cinema in France (CNC) was one of the most fruitful.

There were discussions on collaboration between Kenyan and French filmmakers – a conference has been planned for November 15th to 17th, with the aim of training government officers on sensitising local producers on the available opportunities for funding by the Centre, and a possible benchmarking trip and workshop with a few selected Kenyan filmmakers to France.



Kenya’s disastrous on screen couple lands spinoff show

They have a love-hate relationship on the hit television show Auntie Boss, but despite their character’s’ disastrous bond, Eve D’souza and Maqbul Mohammed have a brand new show called Varshita.

The comedy depicts a crazy, pathetic and tragic relationship of two lovers who find themselves in an unexplainable love affair. The show is set in the city and delves into the traditional and cultural expectations of Indian and African families that find themselves in a situation that proves difficult to untangle.

D’souza and Maqbul star as a dysfunctional family in the popular NTV show Auntie Boss.

D’souza told ActScene that she decided to pursue a new show after they felt that there was still more to explore about Varshita.

“We felt there was so much more to tell about Varshita and her life that it needed a whole other show. We hope to provoke a discussion of issues about race and relationships that often remain too sensitive or uncomfortable to explore. This is the first show in Kenya where we really expose the challenges and realities of interracial dating. It’s the right time for this kind of content,” said D’souza.

Varshita is a spinoff from the popular Auntie Boss and will air on Maisha Magic East.

“My production company is still producing Auntie Boss, the show has really grown to be one of the biggest comedy shows on air. We would like to focus on making it even bigger. However, the characters of Don and Varshita will be eased off Auntie Boss. It will happen gradually and over time so we can make the transition feel natural,”

Asked why she chose Maqbul she said “I really enjoy working with Maqbul not only because we’re friends but because he’s an incredibly talented actor,”

She added that “there are many things I’ve learned and picked from him as we film. We have long intense days of filming so there are many times one of us will start to shut down and struggle to keep going. Maqbul is really great and tries to lift my energy and get me through it,”

The Bhatt’s, an Indian family and the Wangombe’s discover that their children Varshita and Donovan have been secretly dating for 10 years even though the Bhatt family has been planning a traditional wedding for their daughter to another Indian family.

Don, the sworn life bachelor is a laid back techpreneur, while Varshita is a loud, dramatic, and obsessive and a little unhinged former model, hung up on past glory. Her single most important mission in life is to get Don to marry her.

The situations the couple and their families find themselves in make for crazy but usually hilarious comedy, that makes the show, the ultimate text book example of dysfunctional families and a couple that should never have gotten together in the first place.

 “The comedy aims to mirror real life scenarios that exist in modern day society through comedy.. Entertainment is a way of life that brings people together around shared passions, and connect them with new and existing realities,” Head of Channel Maisha Magic East Margaret Mathore said.


Thor: Ragnarok a hilariously good humour action movie

Predicted to be one of the main attraction movies of the year, Thor: Ragnarok brought people to theatres after a sold out premier at ANGA IMAX in Nairobi last week.

When a movie pairs the God of Thunder with a giant angry green man, it’s hard to take that premise as anything other than ridiculous. And luckily for moviegoers, the team behind Thor: Ragnarok has so much fun with that idea, and the resulting outcome is a hilarious good time. 

Thor: Ragnarok stands as one of the best Marvel movies yet.

The film is directed by Taika Waititi, and is a sensory delight. When you’re not being dazzled, you’re laughing: this is as close to an outright comedy as Marvel has ever dared allow. It is, by far, the most enjoyable Thor movie, and the first that even gets close to realising the true scope of its characters.

Chris Hemsworth plays the role of Thor with a bravado that’s endearing rather than arrogant.

He’s the mighty Thor, on a quest for survival and in a race against time. He is basically living the invincible life that any heroic immortal would.

Hela (Cate Blanchett) is the movie’s villain this time around. She’s the self-proclaimed goddess of death, and while she’s way more interesting than the bland dark elves of the last Thor film, she still suffers the same problems of most other Marvel cinematic villains.

Fortunately, the trickster god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back again, giving his half-brother, Thor, grief throughout the film. 

And of course, the Hulk himself (Mark Ruffalo) reappears, and is far more talkative than simply yelling phrases like “Hulk smash!” As a result, at one point the Hulk even shows emotion after Thor tells him nobody likes him on Earth. It’s a welcome surprise to see a sad, sulking Hulk rather than one who simply smashes everything in sight.

The light touch to the film, the subversion of the superhero genres, and the punch lines all combine to make Thor: Ragnarok a thrilling ride from start to finish.

Speaking to ActScene, head of Marketing ANGA Cinemas, Naomi Mwangi said that the film has been selling out since it premiered.

“It seems everyone wants to watch the movie, we have people who are booking tickets days in advance,” said Ms Mwangi.

 The movie is bright, colorful, and hilarious. It begins when Thor returns home to Asgard to discover that Loki has been impersonating Odin played by Anthony Hopkins and sent their father to live on Earth.

When they go to retrieve Odin, they learn that Hela, the Goddess of Death, has been freed from prison and plans to bring Ragnarok-the end of all things to Asgard and eventually the universe.

Before they can stop her, the brothers eventually end up on the battle planet of Sakaar. Valkyrie is played by Tessa Thompson, who finds fighters for the planet’s charismatic ruler. The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), forces Thor into the arena where he discovers that the reigning champion is the Hulk. Meanwhile, Hela wreaks havoc back on Asgard with the help of local ruffian Skurge.