Style and content in selected Kenyan message films 1980 to 2009
This study analyses style and content in Kenyan message films produced between 1980and 2009. Anchored on the principles of Formalist, Auteurist, Postcolonial and ViewerResponse theories, it narrows down to four films sampled through stratified random sampling. These are Sao Gamba's Kolormask (1986), Anne Mungai's Saikati (1992), Robby Bresson and Kimani Mburu's Pieces for Peace (2008) and Njoki Mbuthia and Mona Ombogo-Scot's Unseen, Unsung, Unforgotten (2009). The study draws from Postcolonial discourse to discuss the three possible initiators of message filmmaking in Kenya. It applies the Auteurist belief that the director is responsible for all the artistic and technical choices made during a film's production. The study, however, dismisses as fallacious notion that having made the stylistic choices, the director can package meaning as he desires and pass it on to the audience. Thus; this research invokes the precepts of Viewer Response theory, acknowledging a viewer's role in the process of meaning generation. Subsequently, the study goes ahead to examine the application of individual film elements in each of the sampled films. This study contributes to the growth of the rather young Kenyan film industry by emphasizing the importance of both style and content in message filmmaking. Its findings will be useful to film policy makers, researchers and funding organizations with an interest in Kenyan film. Being a qualitative study, the research methods applied during data collection and analysis were those that could elicit the respondents' opinions about the topics of discussion. Primary data was therefore collected through focus group discussions with thirteen film critics, in-depth interviews consisting of open-ended questions as well as free observation. Two data collection instruments were used during data collection: Interview guides were used during the in-depth interviews and FGDs while observation guides directed the researcher as she observed the films. Secondary data came from literature and documentary films on the relevant topics of concern for each chapter. The study objectives were met and the study concludes that all the four films pass across certain social concerns. The films' directors attempt to coat these messages with appealing stylistic manipulations – both technical and aesthetic. Nonetheless, hindrances such as time of a film's production, filming and processing equipment used, finances and director's creative oversights still mar most of these films.