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Discovering the Existence of an Oscars Committee in Kenya

Oscar StatuetteI recently attended a workshop on the Audio-Visual industry hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). I meet a lot of interesting people in the film industry as well as learning a lot more about the industry. I will share my new knowledge progressively addressing the different lessons and issues that came up.

The first and most interesting lesson I learnt was that Kenya has an Oscar Committee. I was surprised and also had to share it on twitter as well to gauge the awareness. The results; I am yet to come across a comment stating they have known of its existence. Some even thought it was an April Fools Prank.

I had the pleasure of meeting the current President of the committee, Ms. Wambui Kairo of One Boy Productions. The committee was constituted to open doors for the Kenyan film industry into the international space. Around 2007, there was a film producer who wanted to submit their production for an Oscar Nomination consideration. However, their attempt was quashed as the Oscar Academy stated they could only accept the entry if it was vetted by a local Oscar Committee and submitted by the Committee on their behalf. That was the genesis of the Oscar Committee in Kenya.

The Committee consists of 11 professionals in the film industry ranging from directors,editors, make-up artists, makeup artists among other professionals. The members of this committee are consistent members of Kenya National Film Association (KNFA) ,Third Force and Kenya Film & Television Professionals Associations (KFTPA) which is a requirement for purposes of credibility. The reason for this is for the different professionals in the committee to apply their skills in the judging process.

The current sitting Committee has been lucky to successfully vet and submit a film, Nairobi Half Life as an entry to be considered for an Oscar Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The other category the Committee can submit for is Best Picture, which Kenya is yet to submit. Every year when the Committee would like to forward submissions, the Committee receives special rules that will be used in the vetting process at the local level.

It is important to clarify that a submission by the Kenyan Oscars Committee is not equivalent to a nomination. Any submissions made to the Oscars Academy are submissions for consideration of a nomination. Thereafter, the Oscars Academy then proceed to name the nominees. Therefore, Kenyan media erred when they stated that Nairobi Half Life was nominated for an Oscar. It was merely submitted for consideration of a nomination.

In matters of operations, the Kenyan Oscar Committee should ideally sit for a year, however, because our film industry is yet to be as vibrant to see more than one film produced in a year, they hardly have any work and end up sitting for two to three years. I find no problem with this, perhaps the Kenyan Oscars Committee rules should be customized to accommodate the practical situations in our industry.

With the analysis of the information I managed to gather from the interview with Ms. Kairo, I put forward the following recommendations:

1) That, the existence of such a committee should be public knowledge and publicized. I am aware that attracting the media to give coverage and efficient and concise information can be quite the task.

2)There is need for documenting and publishing of such progress and existence of such ground-breaking developments as well as putting in place rules and regulations to reinforce credibility and govern such committees and organizations.

Our creative industries, generally, are yet to fully embrace formal processes like documenting practices within their different industries. As we gear towards the celebrations for Kalasha Awards, what should be our equivalent to the Oscars, It is important that the relevant government body, Kenya Film Commission restructures and re-brands this event to try and clear the rather controversial reputation the awards have. I am yet to see a document or a website that describes with clarity the awards ceremony. As a recommendation: document, document and document. Borrow a leaf from the organization structure and systems put in place by the Oscars Academy and customize as well as other successful film awards around the world.

At the moment, our Kalasha Awards ceremony is yet to achieve that level of seriousness and appreciation. The underlying issues need to be addressed. One of them, the habit of politicizing the operations which is rather counter productive.

For the Oscar committee, I would like to challenge you with the same; construct document operations and rules- this will boost credibility once such matters are transparent, brand and publicize the committee. One of the key elements to achieve this is through obtaining a website. Hopefully we shall see a website soon to encourage the film makers and practitioners to produce more quality films and expand our chances of a nomination at the Oscars.

In my opinion, if these Awards and Nomination bodies brainstorm on incentives to reel in investors in film productions, we just may be able to tackle the challenge of financing in the film industry.


  • Tecla Lenjo

    That’s a new one..didn’t think we had one..i think people don’t give these things the seriousness it deserves in terms of appreciation of talent among other things. Hope one day things will change

    April 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm
  • Namisango Khayundi

    Will be passing this on. Information is power and this will help people in the film industry to work harder on their content.

    April 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm
  • Will Press

    Great info here, Liz. One more area to explore could be the minimum standards the Committee expects for submissions. On the other hand, we’d also have a greater chance at Oscar noms if some of our artists and professionals get to the level of being eligible for Academy membership, which is not an easy thing by any standards. Do we have any members at the moment? I don’t think so. Maybe Lupita Nyong’o will take a stab at it after a few more major film roles.

    Just like the Grammy Awards, which still has the nerve to cram African music under the World Music genre, the Oscars can only be expected to present an incomplete picture of film excellence, especially when it comes to content from Africa which is still either under-exposed or under-developed. Real focus should be on strengthening our content and our own local awards.

    May 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm