Kenyan quartet chases continental glory at Mobile Film Festival Africa awards

Four Kenyans in the Mobile Film Festival Africa finals (from left) David Waronja, Shandra Apondi, Solomon Emuria and Neha Shah. The shortlist features 54 films from 21 countries that highlight important societal themes.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

Four Kenyans have made it to the Mobile Film Festival Africa finals where participants were tasked with creating one-minute long films using their mobile devices.

Shandra Apondi, David Waronja, Neha Shah, and Solomon Emuria are among the 54 finalists selected from a pool of more than 800 submissions. The quartet will be competing for nine awards which include scholarships and creative grants worth $46,000 (Sh6.3 million).

The festival returns for a second edition under the slogan ‘1 Mobile, 1 Minute, 1 Film,’ and the use of mobile phones and scrapping of registration fees is meant to promote equity and eliminate financial barriers while challenging creative film makers to tell a compelling story in one minute.

The shortlist features 54 films from 21 countries that highlight important societal themes across all genres including comedy, fiction, thriller, and documentary.

Neha Shah is a seasoned filmmaker with more than seven years of experience in film production and design.

Her film, Macho Nne, is a hand-drawn children’s animation following the story of a caracal, a wild cat found in Maasai Mara. The cat finds a pair of glasses and when she wears them, she gets teleported deep into the ocean.

“As she swims further, she sees all these plastic materials floating towards her and she gets trapped in the fragments. The story intends to show that as much as the ocean looks beautiful from the outside, it is a lot filthier and dangerous inside,” Neha told the Sunday Nation.

In what is a break from most animations that are made using apps, Neha used drawings that are moved around to create motion.

“It was a real task to make a film in under a minute. My first script was five minutes long and it took us about four weeks to film everything and get it right. I was able to compress my film to 57 seconds but it was all very calculated. I knew that the quality of the phone could affect the quality of our video,” Neha said.

Shandra’s film, Paaswaaad (Password) and David’s film, First Gig were both placed in the comedy section of the competition.

David, who has been creating short films with his friends in Kiambu for more than seven years, said that his biggest challenge was in post-production.

“I learned most of what I know from YouTube and my own experiences. It was hard to make something sensible that people could understand in only a minute even though I have made other short films in the past,” said David.

His film follows the story of two friends who were trying to kidnap a victim for the first time, but failed. David says that had he given up after his first film, he would not have made it to the shortlist.

“I really did not know what I was getting myself into. My first film was terrible. We still laugh about it,” he said.

Shandra started her filmmaking journey on a high last year. Her first short film won her the Best Director of a Student Film award at the Women and Films Awards.

Even with a degree in civil engineering, she chooses to follow her passion, which has proven worthwhile. Her latest creation, Password, highlights some men’s reluctance to give their girlfriends or partners the passwords to their phones. This she does by showcasing a frantic chase between a man and his girlfriend in the forest. Her trick was to put the climax at the start of the story.

“My first film was 20 minutes long and it took us two days to film, so I found this one easier to make. The only challenge I faced was that mobile phones lose charge faster than video cameras, and the exposure you get from recording videos using phones is not that great,” said Shandra.

Solomon, who is known as Artsy Solomon in the creative scene, was inspired by Senator Gloria Orwoba‘s campaign against period shaming to make a documentary titled Red Cycle. He is also a film and television student at Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI).

Solomon had submitted an entry into the same competition last year, but it was not selected for the finals.

“I was truly inspired by what the Senator did and even more shocked to find out that only 60 per cent of women have access to sanitary pads, and that 45 per cent of them come from rural areas. I come from Turkana and when I talked to women from my village, they confirmed that this is all true, which really shocked me,” he said.

Mobile Film Festival Africa Founder Bruno Smadja believes that this is just the beginning of a great edition thanks to the enthusiastic participation of young creators from all over the continent. There were 847 submissions from all over Africa.

“Above all and as you will discover, their films are particularly committed to conserving this planet that we mistreat, to advocating for women’s rights, and to speak against child labour and the immigration crisis. At the Mobile Film Festival, we are proud to share these young Africans’ visions with as many people as possible, in Africa and around the world. This is how we make their voices heard,” said Smadja.

Kenyan film producer and director, Fibby Kioria, is one of the six judges tasked with selecting the winners, who will be announced at the awards ceremony on June 8, 2023 in Rabat, Morocco.

“This is a chance to experience new emerging voices and to see what African filmmakers are preoccupied with at the moment. The participants show us what is new in society, what is happening around us, what people are concerned with at the moment, and what they are talking about,” she said.