Ningwanchete: After watching this film, you will never be friend-zoned

Samora Kibagendi is a photographer and filmmaker whose passion was sparked after watching the famous film, Dangerous Affair. He opens up to SHIRLEY GENGA

What was running through your mind when you came up with the script for your latest fim, Ningwanchete?

So many things! Ningwanchete means ‘I love you’ in Ekegusii. The movie is a romantic drama and we did our initial premiere in Kisii on Valentine’s Day to about 300 fans.

This movie revolves around the issue of friend-zoning. I’m sure each one of us, especially men, has been friend-zoned at some point in our lives, or at the very least, you know someone who is.

We tried to explore this issue with the questions, ‘Is it possible to get out of the friend zone? Can best friends become lovers?’ About 85 per cent of the movie is in sheng and the rest is in Kisii and subtitled in English.

Why did you decide to have the movie in Ekegusii?

I started my production company in 2014 immediately after college and called it 254 Films. My main objective as a filmmaker is to spur a filmmaking and cinema culture upcountry.

That’s why I chose to move from Nairobi to my hometown, Kisii, where I train young filmmakers. I screen my movies in Kisii, Eldoret and Kisumu.

Where will the film be showing and for how long?

We did our first screening in Kisii. Our next screening will be in Eldoret on March 3, at the Sirikwa Hotel. We are also exploring our options to take the movie to Kisumu, and finally Nairobi.

The western Kenya circuit is our priority for now. The movie will also be available on our website, Viewers will pay Sh50 via M-Pesa and be given a link to stream or download the movie. After that, we will consider selling it to a broadcaster.

 Filmmaking is an expensive venture. Approximately, how much does it cost you?

My latest 70-minute film cost about Sh30,000. The cheapest feature film I have ever made was Hasidi, which cost me Sh7,000 and a lot of goodwill.

Also, most of the time, I’m a one-man-crew, which means I am the scriptwriter, producer, DoP (director of photography), editor and distributor of my movies.

Which other films have you worked on?

Last year, I made three movies: My Valentine, Hasidi and Marisela; and three short films - Prejudice, Bored and Enyoongo ya baba (grandmother’s pot) - which won the best sound design at the Lake International Film Festival and best directing at the Gasu Awards.

The movies were all publicly screened in Kisii and Eldoret. I’ve also shot several movies as a DoP for hire.

What are your other talents?

I’m a photographer. I specialise in fashion photography and I also cover weddings.

What do you think is your greatest career achievement so far?

I’m glad that we have managed to grow an audience that appreciates Kenyan movies, especially in our hometown Kisii.

We are always assured of not less than 200 people showing up for our screenings, and the numbers keep on rising with each project we have released.

Apart from that, every film title I add to my wall is a new career high for me. My target for now is to consistently keep making movies and ensuring they are available to Kenyans.

When did you realise that filmmaking was your dream career?

I was born and raised in a small village called Mosobeti and growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. When I was in high school, I watched Judy Kibinge’s movie, Dangerous Affair and after that, all I wanted to do was make films.

I couldn’t think of anything else. It bewitched me. I quit school, ran away from home and sought to find out how to make movies. In 2008, I even shot a short film with a borrowed hi8 camera and edited it with a computer that I remember had 512MB RAM and a Windows Moviemaker software.

But somehow, my mother convinced me to go back to school. I sat for my KCSE and joined Multimedia University to study film production and animation. I dropped out in my second year due to school fee challenges.

Luckily, I got a scholarship at the Jamhuri Film and Television Academy (JFTA) that’s now Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI). I did one term there and learnt a lot. After that, I started my production company.

Tell us something that a lot of people do not know about you...

I’ve been a bad boy. Even my parents don’t know that I’m a father of one. My son is called Mandela.

What’s your advice to anyone out there who wants to follow in your footsteps?

First, make YouTube your best friend. Everything you need to know is there. Then surround yourself with crazy friends who have seemingly impossible dreams. Travel together. And don’t ever stop.

It gets hard before it gets easier. But don’t stop. Give it your very best shot every single day. When you get to 10,000 shots, you’ll become a master.