Gerald Langiri
November 27 / 2013

A friend of mine chats me up and asks where he can buy or get the following Kenyan movies on DVD; Nairobi Half Life, House of Lungula, Lost in Africa, Shattered, LEO, Captain of Nakara,Mos Kode, The Distant Boat and Simiyu Samurai because he has heard about them but hasn’t watched any and would love to.

My initial response was; “apart from Nairobi Half Life on that list which you can get in Nakumatt supermarkets for ksh 800, the rest I have no idea and I’m pretty sure they are not out on DVD yet because of that P word- PIRACY. The minute a Kenyan movie that has created a buzz is out on DVD, the producers won’t make money because people will copy them and pirates will make ksh50 shillings copies which means losses to the producer. That is why Kenyan movies are not on DVD.”

Thinking that story would end there, my friend came back and said something that irked me. His response was: “Pity. The industry players like yourself should find out what successful markets are doing right and enforce it in Kenya. We can’t really rely on cinemas with the hectic schedules.” What irked me about his response is this part “The industry players like yourself..”

Now, I probably should have handled what I typed next much better because he too kind of sensed I got worked up. However, for the sake of argument and to all those people who keep making excuses to not go pay and watch Kenyan movies in cinemas or actually do have interest to watch Kenyan movies but are waiting for DVDs to come out and not original DVDs for that matter but Kshs 50 pirated DVDs, this is also for you:

“..and that there already lies the problem. When people start pointing fingers. I quote you "The industry players like yourself.." *sigh*ask yourself what are you doing to help the situation instead of pointing fingers. The fight against piracy, if you do your research, is one that is impossible to win. Even in Hollywood, piracy is rampant. The only difference between Kenya and Hollywood when it comes to piracy is the fact that the big moneyed production houses will probably make millions from their movies before the pirates get them. How?? Well apart from getting sponsors and product placements, they will make money by people actually going and flocking to cinemas to watch movies when they get out. So stop making excuses about hectic schedules and actually walk into a cinema.

Even Nairobi half life released DVD version of the movie a year later after it had done rounds in cinemas. The Government won’t help much when Kenyans want to opt for a Kshs 50 shilling Hollywood movie compared to a Kshs 500 DVD Kenyan movie. Before you ask why Kenyan movies on DVD are expensive, it is because it is expensive making movies and it won’t make any business sense to sell a movie at Kshs 50.

The pirates who sell Hollywood movies at ksh50 all they need is a computer and internet connection. You think people in Hollywood don’t know their movies can be downloaded on the net for free? They do know. Why are they not doing anything about it? Well, at least they tried a few years back when they banned torrents websites and websites where movies can be downloaded for free but they too have failed to stop piracy and frankly, they probably don’t hurt as much. They know they will make their money first through box office sales. There is a cinema going culture in America that is outstanding and one that is lacking in Kenya.

So my dear friends, it’s actually a pity because you, like many other Kenyans like yourself, are really not helping the industry if you want movies on DVD as soon as the movie is out instead of actually walking into a cinema to watch it because truth is, when you see a Kenyan movie on DVD, chances are the makers of the movie have already made their money through other means or are willing to take the risk to go on losses after making the film. That should also explain why not so many cinema worth watching Kenyan films are made and producers are opting to making series instead of movies and even that is proving an uphill task.

Until Kenyan film makers can make protected DVDs that cannot be pirated, you are urged to go watch Kenyan films in cinemas. This is a fight to be fought by all of us and not one particular party. It can simply start by you creating awareness and saying no to buying pirated DVD or simply going to watch movies in cinemas. It is sad that cinemas like Odeon, Nairobi and Kenya Cinema had to be converted to churches because people were not going to watch movies. Currently in the CBD, Imax cinema is the only cinema left and I don’t think we are anywhere near as an industry to make a movie suited for Imax technology for those who would suggest showing movies at Imax because century cinemax Junction, prestige and Sarit are out of your reach.

I mean, a few years back people used to say that they don’t watch Kenyan movies and programs because they were poor quality and whack. Well now we have good interesting, nicely shot with good stories movies at the cinemas, why are you still not running to watch them?”

By Gerald Langiri

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