SPOTLIGHT ON RISQUE KENYAN DIRECTOR ALEXANDROS KONSTANTARAS
Please note that directing is not a promotion from acting. It is too often that I hear young actors dreaming of being directors simply because they want more money and cheo (higher post).This director is and has always been a director specializing in the field of comedy directing mostly and scripwriting. Alexandros Konstantaras started as an indie as opposed to commissioned work.
This trailblazer made way for many other independent producers and (let’s be honest here) gave the lords of Riverwood a run for their money. This all begun after Vivid Pictures, the company he was working for had basked in the sun of their internationally acclaimed movie ‘100 Days’. Buoyed by this victory and looking to produce films that would be more accessible to the Kenyan viewer, he helped Nick Hughes set up Jitu Films, a department of Vivid Pictures whose objective was to produce a collection of low budget movies and flood the market in such a way that pirates did not have a chance.
This model faced its own challenges just like every pioneer initiative would do. However, it was a breath of fresh air into Riverwood which before then only made sales based on indigenous language movies. In typical Kenyan fashion, we complained that the movies were too cheap (my dear Kenyans!). Nevertheless Alex worked tirelessly on this project and soon became the face of the project on all fronts- starring, directing and producing. This is when you realize not all white people are the same and this one was as hardcore as they came.
I remember attending a Producers’ conference organized by Zuku with Alex. The directors insisted that they required local producers to deliver high quality content. Alex shot up and explained to the directors that they needed to understand that the budget they provided was not anywhere near the quality they were demanding. Of course a debate transpired but it was amazing to see this courageous director air out a pivotal challenge in independent production. Alex forged forward with his star-actress wife Liz Njagah-Konstantaras to form Historia Films Kenya. They have delivered productions that have taken the Kenyan market by storm, including ‘Me My Wife and Her Guru’, ‘Return of Lazarus’ and ‘In The Forest With Gerald Langiri'
It was however their comedy ‘House of Lungula’ (lungula means sex) that finally gave them the national attention they richly deserved. This was the movie with the most controversial title Kenya had ever produced. It ignited a lot of conversation with self-righteous Kenyans condemning it and in the process making more and more Kenyans want to watch. Alex didn’t let the dust settle and together with his supportive go-getter wife produced ‘Fundimentals’ which was released this year and one of its main actors, Gerald Langiri, nominated to the Nigerian AMVCA Awards (sorry I’m not writing it in full- Google is your friend).
Alex’s approach is based on wrapping grave socio-economic issues with humor. I don’t know how the fully trained film –maker got the Riverwood syndrome but working with Alex actually makes you feel patriotic. Above him there is only you and the film and no other big guy. He discusses the scene, enjoys it with you without further directorial jargon and excitedly discusses how he sees it shot. Actors also feel like his peers and partners when making a film which makes them give it their best shot. They also stick around with him as he gallantly promotes the film to a Kenyan audience.