UNDERUTILISED INDUSTRY

Proposed Kenya film policy long overdue

In Summary
  • The most progressive objective of the proposed Bill is the establishment of the Kenya Film Fund
  • Film development also has the viable potential of complementing industries such as tourism, sports and ICT, positioning the country as an influential market in Africa
Image: Photos for class

Fifty-seven years after Independence, Kenya has not had a substantive forward-thinking policy on film production, funding and distribution.

However, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology recently invited public participation on the Draft Kenya Film Bill 2020, a culmination of a long process that if approved by Parliament and receiving presidential assent, will become the Kenya Film Act 2020.

The aim of the Bill is to provide for an Act of Parliament to consolidate the legislative framework of laws relating to the film industry; to provide for the establishment, powers and functions of film industry entities and to provide for the development, funding and regulation of the film industry.

The Act is set to replace the Film and Stage Plays Act (Cap 222), which was enacted back in 1962.

The process of developing a consolidated framework for film development began in 2002 with a plan to develop a National Film Policy. However, it was not until 2008 that an initial draft was developed before a final draft was presented to the Cabinet in 2015.

At the time, then Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, Dr Hassan Wario stated that “the Policy seeks to ensure that Kenya strategically exploits its resources and places itself optimally in an increasingly globalized market for content development.”

Clearly, the evolution of the content creation industries and especially film, has not been lost on policymakers, who view the industry as a key economic development activity. Of importance is to note that the National Film Policy is to be reviewed every five years, a deliberate attempt at keeping up with ever-changing industry developments.

The key objectives of the proposed Bill include consolidating the laws that establish and govern the national film entities. These are the Kenya Film Commission, whose mandate is to develop, promote and market the film industry locally and internationally; and the Kenya Film Classification Board, who will act as a regulator concerned with the creation, broadcasting, distribution and exhibition of films within the country.

Another objective is the establishment of the Kenya Film Academy, which currently exists as the Kenya Film School, and will be concerned with offering cinematic and performing arts for the film industry.

However, given the past history of government-run institutions in the country, with the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication as an example, this function would be best left to private industry players. Currently, Kenya has no institution that is accredited by CILECT, the industry association of global film schools that is the quality benchmark of film and screen media education.

Nevertheless, the most progressive objective of the proposed Bill is the establishment of the Kenya Film Fund, a facility that is aimed at supporting capacity building, developing film industry infrastructure, funding local productions and facilitating co-production agreements.

Presently, one of the key challenges facing the local industry is getting Kenyan content to international producers who in turn can unlock funding in their respective countries. Provision of development funds will go a long way in project development, generating pilots and facilitating representation at international film markets.

Film development also has the viable potential of complementing industries such as tourism, sports and ICT, positioning the country as an influential market in Africa. 

Overall, the proposed Bill is overdue legislation that if properly implemented and satisfactorily administered, will provide a roadmap that will guide Kenya towards being a global player in the creative industries.

Screen media producer