Gerald Langiri
September 27 / 2011

In a previous article I wrote called, HOW CAN WE SAVE OUR DYING INDUSTRY?, I asked whether we should call our film making industry Riverwood and most people thought it was a rhetorical question. In actual sense it was not rhetorical at all and it is a question that lacks an appropriate answer causing us to be in the state of dilemma or be it being caught between a rock and a hard place. Well, in this scenario the hard place seems to have a softer spot as compared to the rock and it is better if we opt and stick to the hard place. The metaphor will unveil itself as you continue reading this article.

I was on a mission of finding out the origin of the term Riverwood and how it came to be. My mission bore no fruits but at least got a hint of its existence. It came to my knowledge that Riverwood is adapted from the word Nairobi which according to linguistics means a Maasai name which further means cool waters flowing just like a river and that is how it came to be. Another source defines it as movies and films being made super fast and in bulk and being sold in River road.

After carrying a survey, I asked a few people (comprised of both who are connected to the industry and those that aren’t in anyway whatsoever) what the name Riverwood symbolizes. To some, Riverwood is the equivalent of Hollywood, while to others; it is where local movies are distributed specifically at River Road. Fascinating responses I got there and surprisingly one person told me every time the name Riverwood is mentioned, what comes first in his mind are, and I quote “movies that have low budget cameras, plastic acting, poor editing…” I wish not to continue quoting him because he was not being just by the way he put his words. I asked him if he has had the opportunity of seeing some of the latest movies and T.V series and he confidently responded yes and acknowledge how our industry is doing a wonderful job and that it is growing quite well. I was a bit of confused and explained to him that those latest movies and series still count to be part of Riverwood. I could see the shmuck on his face and he said there is no way that they can be classified as Riverwood movies because they are of better quality and standards that what Riverwood symbolizes. Perhaps that was a clear indication of the man’s ignorance or is it the name Riverwood that should be questioned? I guarantee you this is one controversial topic.

I honestly do not like the name Riverwood and a whole bunch of people will certainly agree with me. Just because the suffix “WOOD” symbolically indicates film making adapted from Hollywood, the existence of Bollywood, Nollywood, Sollywood (South Africa) and Bongowood (Tanzania) came to be. Now what, Riverwood for Kenya? I don’t think so. Question is who came up with the idea of the term “WOOD” to tag Kenyans film industry? I quess we will never know and if there is, we do need a whole lot of explanation. Now that it is made official that “WOOD” concerns film making, countries should tag their industry with “Something wood”. Let uss take for instance Uganda, I do not know what they call their film Industry(any Ugandan reading this,please enlighten us) but here is a suggestion, maybe they should call it Pearlwood since Uganda is well known as the Pearl of Africa and clearly Uollywood can’t work out just like Kollywood didn’t work out for Kenya. All this is just hysterical and so are the names which are perfectly absurd. Furthermore, Riverwood (from its definition) alienates other regions of the country who are actively participating in the film industry as well. Does this mean that Coastal Films Productions is not part of Riverwood? Or should they also come up with their own name, mnaziwood for example? No pun intended.

Riverwood has had a stretch of success by creating marvelous and remarkable films and T.V series and that is quite a great accomplishment and it is not the activities taking place that most people have “a problem” with but the name. Some will say the naming convention shouldn’t matter but in this case it does matter. Some one shared with me and asked those who were supporting the name Riverwood if they would name their son Hitler? Naming conventions are very vital and defines what you do.

On behalf of those who feel that the name Riverwood is not appropriate, I would kindly ask and appeal to the Kenya Film Commission to reconsider about the name Riverwood. This could be done by getting a panel of people to come up with various suggestions and to come to agree with a nice and better name. Honestly speaking we do not need to follow the crowd such as Nollywood or Bollywood to fit in forcing us to come up with a prefix so as to combine it to the suffix “WOOD”. If however we do, let us come up with a name synonymous of the country’s film making industry and not river road alone. This is a call to be innovative and authentic and it is practically proven that Authenticity and innovation will always beat monotony. Let us avoid the fact that because they did it let’s adjust and calculate some measures so as to fit in.

So my metaphor presents itself in the fact that as all this is just mere politics and controversy, some ought to consider this unnecessary or even disagree, in this case we will totally disagree to agree that the name Riverwood has go. As much as it has produced great films and has contributed positively to the industry, the name is very questionable. These are just my opinions and of those that agree with me. We can stick to Riverwood and continue living with the mockery or we can do something about the name.

Written by Mark Kaiyare

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