After a five-year run celebrating the local film and TV industries through an annual award ceremony, Kenya’s Kalasha Awards — “Fundimentals,” above, is in the running for best picture — have expanded its focus this year, with organizers hoping the revamped format will offer a platform for content coming from the East African region.
Rebranded as the Kalasha Intl. Film & TV Festival & Market, this year’s edition, which runs through Oct. 30, will for the first time include a two-day market bringing together East African producers, broadcasters, distributors and government bodies, with their counterparts from the rest of the world.
“The industry is booming,” says Juliette Vivier, the regional audiovisual attache for East Africa at the French Embassy in Kenya, a co-partner of the event. “We have to push the industry and offer a platform where now Kenyans and the professionals from the East African region can start having new business opportunities.”
The partnership between the French Embassy and the Kenya Film Commission was sparked by a recognition that East Africa still has a relatively small presence at international markets like Mipcom, Mip TV and Discop Africa.
With Discop’s twice-yearly markets in Johannesburg and Abidjan anchoring the Southern and West African regions, respectively, Vivier said “it makes sense to tap the East African market as well.”
The program includes a conference schedule geared toward helping international players learn more about the region; a series of workshops featuring both foreign and regional professionals; and a number of pitching sessions offering opportunities for foreign partners to produce or co-produce local projects.
While the focus will be on East African content, Nigeria, South Africa, Ivory Coast and Madagascar will also have a presence at the market, along with a host of delegates from the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
A strong French presence at Kalasha, which will include Canal Plus Overseas and the DIFFA network of African film producers, reflects that country’s interest in expanding its influence into English-speaking African markets.
The move also reflects a growing desire by the Kenyan government to support its homegrown industry. In July the government gave a broader mandate to the Kenya Film Commission to boost the country’s burgeoning film and TV sector. According to CEO Lizzie Chongoti, the commission has been tasked with establishing a local film fund, finalizing a national film policy, and building film schools across the country.
The government also gave initial approval in September for a 30% tax rebate on foreign film shoots and agreed to remove import duties on film equipment, measures that local bizzers have long called for.
As the country moves forward with its transition to digital, and the government tables local-content quotas for Kenyan broadcasters of between 40% and 60%, Chongoti sees this as a critical moment for the industry, and an opportunity for the first Kalasha market to make its mark on the region.
“We realized with the digital switchover now…that we’re going to have over 100 broadcast and free-to-air stations,” she says. “There are huge stakes right now.”