Gerald Langiri
January 23 / 2012

It really irks me when I hear people talking and suggesting things about DVD piracy in Kenya especially people who wake up one day and without any research or numbers come out and give an opinion on how the pirates can save the Kenyan film industry or why not follow the example of pirates to sell DVDs to Kenyans etc. These people are what I call sofa-set philosophers. I do not blame them as it is their right to have an own opinion but before you have a "if we cant beat them, lets join them" mentality when it comes to piracy and pirates, please do some research and get some facts and figures right. I worked for 5 years with Jitu films and my mouth got dry because of repeating what is the reality out there with the DVDS and the Kenyan Market. I got tired of talking and nothing seemed to be happening. Nothing is changing. So I gave up. And it also seems like Jitu Films are also about to give up DVD distribution/sales plan. Not because they want to but cause they are forced to as nothing has changed in the last 5 years to HELP Kenyan legit film makers and it does not make financial sense anymore to have movies on DVD.

So when I see a new article coming out tackling the issue of piracy like we are still 2006, I get even more depressed because it seems like not only nothing has changed but nothing has even moved to ANY direction. Nothing. Bila. Zero. I have however decided to contribute to this forum because I still believe that there is some kind of hope out there and maybe by passing my opinion and the knowledge which I got from my working experience, someone maybe will manage to take it to the next level.

So here is what I gathered: Reference and response made to the article: PIRACY:THE NUMBER ONE VILLIAN IN OUR INDUSTRY

1) Pirates will hardly pirate a Kenyan DVD because they know that they will be in trouble sooner or later. They know they will have the producer finding out and get the City council etc to arrest them. The first Grader is a Hollywood film shot in Kenya and Viva Riva is from Congo and one of the few non-Nigerian films that got a lot of publicity worldwide so it got pirated not only in Kenya but I believe worldwide. I do not know about shattered but the fact that he did not have it and told you that he will bring it, means that it is not pirated yet. So simply because you asked for it, he will try and see if he can get a copy for you only. When I was asking them out of interest about some Jitu Films, the best they would do is run to the super market buy a copy and resell it to me! Simply because they did not want to lose me as a customer and they wanted to make a shilling.

2) The DVD pirates in Kenya will HARDLY sell pirated or even original Kenyan DVDs because they need a special certificate to do so and they do not want to pay for it so they would rather sell non Kenyan pirate DVDs (that is equally illegal) but no one will bother them (unless some big producer comes from Hollywood to Kenya and starts arresting people... that will never happen). Only exception are River road producers who are producing and selling their OWN movies in their OWN shops (like Nduty) but who they also refuse to sell other producers DVDs but only theirs.

3) ALL DVD shops in Kenya (except the Media stores and a couple of shops like them) are either PIRATES or selling PIRATED movies. So they are ALL illegal. So the question is why don’t we shut them down?

4) One answer is, whichever politician that will make this brave decision, his family will first and foremost complain because they cannot find a place to buy their DVDs. Which means that Kenyans as a culture have accepted and approved these kinds of illegal shops because this is how they have been accustomed to buying DVDs all these years. Plus, there are not many other options for them. Someone must be crazy to go and open a shop when he is selling legally original movies and pay all these ridiculous money for the license, movies, certificates, stickers etc while he can get his laptop and a dozen of blank DVDs, rent a tiny shop and sell movies illegally with no problems. (There are more answers related to this but let us stick to the easy ones for now).

5) How do the DVD pirates affect the local film industry if they do not pirate local movies? Simple: First, by refusing to sell original Kenyan movies (for reasons I have explained to you earlier on). So the original Kenyan DVDs distribution is very limited and Kenyans, even if they want to find DVDs are struggling to find them. The supermarket distribution that Jitu Films started, can reach only a small part of the actual market. So if you want people to find out where they can buy Kenyan DVDs and get them accustomed to that, it needs one to pour more and more money to promote it (on top of all the other expenses). And not many producers can do that and unfortunately there are no legit distribution companies in Kenya at the moment to do it for you.

6) The pricing game. The pirated DVDs no matter if they are American, Chinese or Nigerian movies, nowadays can be sold for ksh50. Five years ago it was almost ksh200. Kenyan films cannot beat this price unless they will sell volumes. Jitu Films put their prices at KSH60 in 2008 (and I remember people reacted that it was too cheap!) and they manage to sell some good volumes in the supermarkets but not enough to cover their expenses. click here to read a related article that explains how much you need to pay in ridiculous taxes etc in order to bring 50,000 original Kenyan DVDs in Kenya (cause there is no DVD factory in Kenya so you need to do it abroad etc etc). So now what the pirates did was put their prices down to 50 ksh. An average Kenyan would think: 50ksh for Spiderman4 or 100ksh (in the best case) for Rugged Priest? And of course we all know the answer.

7) And even if they buy Rugged Priest for 100 ksh original DVD how much of this money will return to the producer? Or how many DVDs does this producer need to sell to break even in such low price? While the pirates paid nothing to produce the movie, nothing to promote the movie (hollywood did the job for him), he is paying no taxes to anyone, no production costs, no certificates from the censorship board, no import duties, nothing. Oh just the blank DVDs and the internet connection. Still NOTHING! So we are talking about an UNEVEN game that the looser always is the Kenyan producer. That is why Jitu Films are about to withdraw all their DVDs from the market because it just costs them too much money to keep doing that, there is NO help from any government, and even the supermarkets are demanding new products/films on the shelves that is impossible to keep up with it under these conditions.

And there are more and more and more things I can talk about on this subject but will it change anything as much?

Unless someone makes a BOLD and RADICAL decision and closes down ALL these ILLEGAL DVD SHOPS and pirates, while at the same time replaces them with legit DVD shops with a license and all, where even Kenyan producer can go and sell his DVDs and every Kenyan goes and buys them under legal terms and conditions, this industry will NEVER take off the ground. Because a producer makes movies so he can sell them to make money back and make more movies. If in Kenya we know already that selling the movie is almost impossible then why bother doing it in the first place? Why make a car when there is no place to sell it? When the local TV stations give peanuts for Kenyan movies, when Kenyans hardly go to the cinemas to watch a Kenyan movie (unless it is for free followed by free booze), when the DVD industry suffers because of the pirates and lack of legit places to sell your movies, when you have to go against a whole mentality of a nation who buys pirated DVDs instead of original Kenyan DVDs, when the government moves slower than a turtle, why bother to make movies and spend money that you know you will never get back? Jitu films is a great example of a company who tried and did all the methods available to change all the above and spend all its energy and money and ended up broke and a step closer to closing down.

And what remained out of all these efforts are the supermarkets as an alternative way of selling DVDS (quite a few producers follow this example) and the first banned Kenyan horror film (a movie that could have made a difference, at least in making Kenyans to go out there and look for a Kenyan film, if it was released then).

PS: I am sure that someone will come and say: so why don’t you pirate your own DVDs and sell them in the market, that sounds like a smart answer initially. However, the funny thing is, first you will end up getting arrested because you are selling Kenyan DVDs without a license (while selling American DVDs they will not bother) and secondly the rest of the pirates will not let you enter their fields. So you will end up having a bunch of pirated DVDs of your movie and nowhere to sell them! Unless some legit distributor comes and opens a chain of little shops or a big shop in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu centre (like Nduty) and starts selling legally not only his but other producers DVDs. The way it is happening in Nigeria. But until someone does it we just have to wait....

By Alexandros Konstantaras,
Jitu Films Director.

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