Tom Tykwer’s Kenyan shingle One Fine Day Films is in Durban this week for the fourth time with “Veve,” which has its world premiere July 20.
A complex exploration of the trade in khat, a mildly narcotic crop grown in the East African nation, pic marks helmer Simon Mukali’s feature debut.
“(One Fine Day) gave me a chance to do this feature film that I had visualized in my head, but I didn’t know if it would happen,” he says. “It was a big show of faith.”
The company is hoping “Veve” can match the DIFF success of “Nairobi Half-Life,” a crowd-pleaser which preemed in Durban in 2012 and earned top actor honors for leading man Joseph Wairimu.
“(DIFF) was the best possible platform to launch our Kenyan film,” says producer Sarika Lakhani, noting that “Half-Life” built on its Durban buzz with screenings at the AFI Film Fest and Rotterdam.
“Veve” is the latest product of an intensive two-week workshop held each year in Nairobi, drawing participants from across the continent, and sponsored by One Fine Day, Kenyan production company Ginger Ink, and the DW Akademie, a German nonprofit sponsoring media development.
According to Lakhani, the pan-African focus of the Durban fest makes it an important showcase not only for One Fine Day, but for the broader Kenyan film industry.
“We are dependent on other African filmmakers to also be successful, because that draws attention to the continent,” she says.
After Durban “Veve” will have its Kenyan premiere on Aug. 28, before hitting Germany in October and the U.K. in November. Talks are also underway to secure general release for pic in South Africa, according to Lakhani.
Though One Fine Day is facing questions about its future, after the German government slashed its culture budget, Lakhani points to the company’s considerable success in recent years as evidence of the viability of what One Fine Day set out to create.
“Six years ago, it was kind of impossible to ask people to put money into something that went against all the rules of European filmmaking,” she says. “According to the rules…we would not exist.”
As for the broader film climate in Kenya, Lakhani acknowledges that while the company has managed to create buzz around the emerging Kenyan film biz, the bigger goal to “enhance the infrastructure for filming” in the East African country has largely been unmet. Despite plenty of high-level talks in government, a comprehensive incentive and rebate scheme has still failed to gain traction, and co-production talks with South Africa and other countries remain stalled.
“The Kenyans haven’t really thought through what they have to put on the table in order to make a co-production agreement interesting for the other party,” she says.
Still, Mukali — a veteran of both One Fine Day’s workshop and Mira Nair’s Maisha Film Lab in Uganda — is optimistic, saying, “Right now it’s a very exciting time to be in Kenya and East Africa. A lot of people have ideas and are ready to jump into the deep end.”
Evidence can be found at Durban FilmMart, which this year boasts a strong crop of Kenyan projects in search of coin and distribution.
“Of course we have the challenges of financing…and getting these things out there,” says Makuli. “But I think the tide is going to shift.
“Hollywood was not built in a day.”