Film Director and cinematographer Likarion Wainaina has cited aspects of frustrations, racism in the film industry that have left him living in poverty despite the film he directed gaining international recognition.
In a series of tweets under the hashtag #KECreativesDeserveBetter, netizens have come out to narrate the various challenges affecting the film industry that have prevented growth.
For instance, Wainaina narrates the story regarding the glitz and glamour in the industry, where the cameras are always rolling yet the people behind the camera are languishing in poverty and knee deep in debts.
Supa Modo is a Kenyan drama film that was directed by Wainaina and debuted in 2018. It received a warm reception and was first premiered at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival. It was also selected as the Kenyan entry for Best Foreign Language although it was not nominated.
In a series of tweets, Wainaina recounts being paid Sh1,500 daily for the production period of the movie and having travelled to Europe with only Sh3,000 in his pockets.
Ideally, he came back to the country after winning the award only to find his house locked due to rent arrears.
“I came home to find my house locked by my landlord and I just sat there, on my suitcase, holding that award outside my door for hours trying to muster the courage to get up and push on. This film was going to kill me. I couldn’t do it anymore,” he wrote.
Further, Wainaina stated that he fell into depression and was contemplating harming himself since he was living the life he did not want.
However, he has urged young producers and people venturing into the film industry to be vigilant before signing contacts since they affect a huge part of their careers.
“This wasn’t the life I wanted. My friends, noticing this, staged an intervention fearing that I would do something to myself. As the success of the film became bigger the emptiness in my heart also got bigger. I poured my entire heart out while making Supa Modo, being reminded daily that this was a ‘student film’ and that I was a ‘student’ there to learn but that was something I said no to,” Wainaina revealed.
Instances of racism in the film industry have also been raised where millions of shillings are spent to fly in white directors and they are paid handsomely while the Kenyan directors are paid peanuts in the name of exposure.
Apparently, the Supa Modo film has profited the foreigners more than the people who toiled and worked hard in Kenya to get it to where it is.
The thread has also caught the attention of the Kenya Film Commission which reached out and stated that its stand is to protect the integrity and value all talents in the film industry.
This is not the first time the film industry has been on the spot over exploitation. In an incident in February this year, video footage surfaced online depicting the sorry state of the life of Nairobi Half Life scriptwriter Charles Matathia which angered netizens.
Despite online sources indicating that approximately Sh50 million was pumped into the film to ensure its success, the scriptwriter was languishing in poverty, thin and emaciated and called upon the public to come to his aid.
This is Potash Charles Matathia, who wrote the script for Nairobi Half Life.
If you know how to reach him, please share.
He needs help pic.twitter.com/NgeZrZziOh
— Jemedari (@MrJemedari) February 19, 2020
Here are some reactions under the thread:
To @SilasMiami thank you for laying bare the racial bias and extractivism that exists in the creative industry.
Unacceptable. Unjust. Unfair
Debating over people's dignified livelihoods is not a debate. Systems MUST change.
— Scheaffer Okore (@scheafferoo) June 11, 2020
Exploitation disguised as “assistance” is the greatest scam white people have ever pulled off to keep racism and colonialism alive. Happy to see my people sharing their stories about how this manifest in the the film sector! #KECreativesDeserveBetter cc:@SilasMiami https://t.co/ayyLtYixJW
— iamSocraTess (@iamsocratess) June 11, 2020
thread; @GingerInkFilms and @OneFineDayFilms exploitation & mistreatment of crew and cast (inspired by @SilasMiami & @MkamzeeM)
1. If you remember Nairobi half life, this is one of the screenplay writers Potash Charles Matathia cc @netflix @dw_akademie #KECreativesDeserveBetter https://t.co/gE7RgQLnOP
— Iyu, says occupy Ba Sing Se🌈 (@SojournerMagere) June 10, 2020
— #KECreativesDeserveBetter (@SilasMiami) June 10, 2020