LIFE BY LOUIS: Of days when movies were screened free of charge

Tuesday August 14 2018

They must retain our village interpreter and voice over character...

They must retain our village interpreter and voice over character...ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

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I am still hopeful that the devolution of government services will also take effect in the entertainment industry.

We are not in a devolved system of government yet if I have to travel from Matimbei to Nairobi in order to watch a respectable movie.

The council of elders from my village is willing to hive off part of the community playground for the county government to set up a modern screening theatre where we can enjoy the movies as soon as they are released from the box office.

However, the county government will be obliged to agree to some of our prerequisites regarding the setup and operation of the facility.


They must retain our village interpreter and voice over character. This is the clever gentleman who does the voice over in my mother tongue and mentions famous actors like Njokopai, Master, Jokary and such other superstars that we can identify with.

These immortal superstars that have graced our village movie screens since the days of "watoto kaeni chini" movies of old. They are never killed however twisted the movie plot is.

By the way, you are not worthy to address a forum of serious movie-goers if you did not attend the free “watoto kaeni chini” movies.


Back then, we were made to understand that the movies were provided free of charge by the central government, whatever that meant.

Looking back, I reckon it must have been a fully-fledged ministry with a large fleet of vans and a big warehouse full of movie screening equipment and films.

We certainly knew that every end of the month, the old van from the government that screened free movies would show up in our village shopping centre without fail.

The screening was organised painstakingly. Before the movie started, an authoritative gentleman –one who probably occupied a big office in a big government office- ensured that everyone had settled down ready to enjoy the movie.

He required that all children be seated in front such that we did not miss any second of the thrilling entertainment that awaited us. The adults always stood behind, probably on guard because they understood the security situation in the open air movie theatre.

Their apprehension was not always in vain. Sometimes in the middle of a captivating scene, someone would throw a rotten egg right into the middle of the crowd. What would follow was a tumultuous stampede for safety.

It was not unusual for a vicious fight to erupt and end the screening prematurely.


This time, I hope that the county government shall provide the kind of security that they accord the county head prefect. I hope that any rogue character caught throwing rotten eggs shall meet the full force of the dreaded DCI and DPP.

I shall expect a large audience from my village to patronize the movie theatre and loudly cheer their favourite movie stars. I trust that the county executive in charge of entertainment will ensure there is enough stock of movies starring Jackie Chan, James Bond and Bruce Lee.

Some of the movie goers will predictably show up 30 minutes after the movie has started and demand to pay half price in lieu. They will camp at the door chanting anti-government slogans and barricading the nearby roads until the person in charge of the pay booth agrees to let them in at their own terms.


Man Kamaa shall demand hawking rights inside the movie theatre, selling biscuits and juice, razor blades, match sticks, slippers, cigarettes and padlocks.

I am always amazed at his portfolio of merchandise, maybe he knows something about product mix that other reputable marketers don’t.
Some ardent movie goers will demand for ‘kionjo’, a free preview of the next favourite movie, more like ugali saucer in my local eatery.

When the movie theatre fails to open because the county executive in charge of the movie docket has not released the funds, we shall block the nearby highway for half a day imploring on the main country headmaster to intervene because we are suffering heavily.

During the negotiations leading to the back to work formula, we shall demand that more young men from our village to be given jobs in the movie theatre. The bodaboda riders will demand exclusive transportation rights in and around the movie theatre.

All the movies during our days started with the national anthem. This tradition shall not be broken.