When we think of Kenya, we often visualise a single Acacia tree silhouetted against a spectacular sunset and the tall, graceful figure of a Maasai warrior striding across the vast savannah, following the trail of a lion, cheetah, elephant or buffalo. Such classic images are the stuff of well-known movies like Out of Africa and even inspired Toto’s famous song, Africa.
When the hot, dry weather is interrupted by thunderstorms and heavy rains throughout the months of June and July, and lush vegetation suddenly springs up across the Maasai Mara, we understand why National Geographic has described this region – the Cradle Of Humankind – as the eighth wonder of the world.
The iconic wildlife, sandy beaches, stunning landscapes and rich culture in Kenya have long made it the perfect cinematic setting. The country has thus had a great deal of exposure in award-winning features such as the 2001 BBC Wildlife Series Big Cat Diaries. As the filmmakers followed lions, leopards and cheetahs across The Great Rift Valley, they highlighted some of the things that Kenya is famous for:
- Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is bordered by 3 national parks.
- Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa after Mt Kilimanjaro. At its base, the Amboseli National Park is home to the largest elephants in Africa and is the most sought-after destination for safari adventures.
- The Equator line runs across Kenya, allowing you to stand with one foot in the Southern hemisphere and the other in the Northern hemisphere.
- It comes as no surprise that Kenya was declared the ‘Best Film Location’ at the 2002 Annual Global Location Expo in Los Angeles.
Kenyans Featured in The Media
Kenya has also received a great deal of exposure in the media because of the great strides taken by conservationists, environmental activists and the government to capitalise on the country’s rich natural heritage.
In 2004, environmental activist Wangari Muta Maathai became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, peace and democracy.
‘To Walk with The Lions’, the biopic of famous conservationist George Adamson, captures Kenya’s multifaceted communities that are united by a strong sense of altruism. With 42 tribes and 68 languages, notable Kenyan filmmakers have been striving in recent years to create awareness and appreciation about the country’s commitment to having people tell their own stories.
This is why the Chief Executive of the Kenya Film Commission, Timothy Owase, is a man on a mission: His vision to invigorate the local film industry by using mobile phones in shooting features has got the attention of award-winning directors like Steven Soderbergh. His full-length feature film, ‘High Flying Bird’ was shot entirely on i-Phone and has catapulted Timothy Owase’s ‘My Mobile Phone Story’ project into the limelight.
The rationale underpinning the project is that film editors, animators and scriptwriters should not have to travel to the capital, Nairobi, to complete productions. The project aims to build film hubs, called Audio-Visual Centres of Production, in every district. Timothy Owase explains the importance of the project as follows:
“The film industry in Kenya is neither dead nor thriving after the Covid Pandemic. Although it was dormant for a while, there have been spikes of creativity and talent from both local and international productions, but most of the time industry players just coast along. Many small-scale productions are now forced to go to streaming sites, but there is a lot of hesitancy because these sites often take 40-60% of the profits. The My Mobile Phone Story project promotes greater creativity and widens the scope of filmmaking,” he said.
Travelling around Kenya is a safe and memorable experience for back-packers, safari enthusiasts, tourists and filmmakers alike, as long as you remember not to bring any plastic bags! The government’s strong commitment to Climate-Smart Campaigns has made Kenyans extremely ecologically conscious. Kenya is the first African country to ban plastic bags, and it is illegal to use, manufacture, import or export any type of plastic bag, including Ziploc bags and duty-free shopping bags. Besides the ecological imperatives, this ban on plastic bags is also a wise economic strategy, as it helps to grow local enterprises that produce bags made of leather, grass or crochet. So, make sure that you visit any of the vibrant markets and equip yourself with the beautifully designed and well-crafted Kikuyu bags.
Whether you are heading to the coast to shoot fishing boats gliding over the coral reefs or driving a jeep across the Maasai Mara in pursuit of Thomson’s gazelles, zebras and elephants, African Fixer can provide travel tips, assistance, talent scouting and any other production support you need.