The Documentary Film Fund of East Africa also known as Docubox had its monthly running of Shorts, Shorts, and Shots at the NBO Film Festival 2019 at the Prestige Plaza, Ngong Road on June 7, 2019.
Docubox supports intimate, character-driven storytelling and encourages new forms of ownership and authorship in East Africa. The Nairobi based organisation funds documentaries as well as hosting events that support film locally allowing Kenyan audiences to watch movies they would usually not have access to. One of its most popular series is “Shorts, Shorts and Shots” hosted every month at the Prestige Cinema on Ngong Road, Nairobi. At these events, audiences are asked to come to the cinema in shorts where they will watch short films and partake of (alcoholic) shots.
The second day at the NBO Film Festival 2019 was the evening of Shorts, Shorts and Shots with the theme, “The Mzalendo Edition.” The Prestige Plaza was packed to the rafters with audience members having to sit in the aisles to watch the eleven short movies that were prepared for them. The movies enveloped us in the experience of seeing ourselves in all our absurdity and beauty. Two of the movies screened by Lydia Matata and Neha Manoj Shah were supported by Docubox with film grants.
Lydia Matata’s Millet is about a woman ensnared by a cult led by an extremely large pastor where all they can eat is small portions of a millet ugali/sadza/pap/nsima. Her daughter who had been kicked out of school for the weekend joins her quickly seeing through the pastor who ate on the sly while his flock of mainly women starved. A willful child confronting adults is not such a common story on these shores which is why it seemed a mite unrealistic. In spite of this, it was a story well told and we look forward to Matata’s next production.
In Neha Manoj Shah’s Love Sweet Sound we are introduced to a blind Indian woman who had called in a friend (or relative) to help her with makeup after what looks like someone battering her. After her patch up, she walks out of her quiet home without her walking stick into a flood of sound onto a busy Nairobi street. As she struggles to deal with the sudden rush of sound at her, she moves off to a side street where a character played by Alfred Munyua, most recently in a starring role in Wakamba Forever, took pity on her and led her to a café across the street for coffee. It emerges that this character who was slightly disfigured, movie disfigured, of course, that dude is a total hottie, had a blind mother. He teaches his new ward how to blur out the sound that is cascading at her. A man with functional eyesight teaching a blind adult how to use their senses more efficiently might seem a bit farfetched but it was still quite enjoyable to watch.
The highlight of the short films that we got to see was the Tony Koros directed Tithes And Offerings with Justin Karunguru as a pastor in an informal settlement that runs a struggling ministry for Jesus of Nazareth. In this wonderful movie, we see this pastor in a red suit going about his day in a slum breaking the door to his church which had been locked by the landlord for non-payment of rent. As healing is an important part of ministry in this part of the world, he hires a sick person to receive healing as is customary. After healing his person, a genuine sick person comes to the fore, is prayed for and gets healed to the shock of everyone including the pastor. That movie will stick with you as it shines a light on the lives in the informal settlements of our cities that we rarely get to see on screen.
Another stunning short film was the Jesse Kyalo directed Wavamizi a prequel to the siege of Mombasa laid on Fort Jesus by a combined force of Omani Arabs, Mombasa Locals and Zanzibaris between 1666 and 1669 that led to the ouster of the Portuguese from the East African coast. It’s a stunning piece of cinema which starred some of the biggest names in Kenyan acting like Kenneth Ambani, Joseph Omari, Bilal Wanjau, Brenda Wairimu, and Likarion Wainaina (yes, the director is an actor too, who knew?).
You can watch the whole movie here on YouTube.
Some of the other movies screened on that day were Excuse Me, Pardon My Manners, Boxed, Get Laid, Near Miss, Amirah Tajdin’s Minerva’s Lillies, and Mara Ya Fao.
With the movies having been screened, the audience left the theatre and proceeded to the shots part of the evening. While drinking copious amounts of alcohol the winners of the next Docubox Callout was made by Judy Kibinge.