If you’ve spent any time doing or following videography, you know that RØDE make some of the best affordable microphones. As part of their global engagement strategy, they run an annual short film competition called My RØDE Reel (MRR). To participate in My RØDE Reel, entrants are required to produce an original short film of a minimum of 60 seconds and a maximum of 3 minutes. One must also submit a behind-the-scenes film that showcases how the short film was made. This is how the judges are able to see that a RØDE microphone or accessory was used in the making of the film.
Last year (2020), 20 Kenyan films were submitted, and let me tell you Maina … they were so horrible! 😫
There’s one where a blind person crosses the road. That’s it, that’s the story. Another where the filmmaker made a film in a dingy candlelit room writing on a piece of paper. That’s it. That’ the film. And then there’s the one where a pregnant woman finds out she has Covid while having a miscarriage as she’s driving a Ford Mustang during an earthquake next to a cliff.
It’s embarrassing being a Kenyan filmmaker.
Of course we submitted our own too, which we’ve included at the end of this article. It was pretty low budget, so you’re welcome to critique it too; but the point we’re making is not that others did a worse job. It’s that the most crucial element of short films was missing. A good short film (with the exception of some genres such as comedy) must have at least two fundamentals: a crisis, and a character arc. By the end of the story, the character should be subliminally perceived to have changed for better or for worse as a result of the crisis.
It’s no wonder that this epic entry from South Africa won.
Global Winner — Amanzi Olwandle by Timothy Hay
Do you see how beautifully and richly the story was written and told?
- The film is well branded
- The story is solid
- The lighting is rich
- The color grading is world class — even on the cover, the right side is reddish while the left is bluish to match the surfboards and suits
- The transitions are excellent — such as how the camera goes under the waves and it transitions to the spirit realm, or how the younger brother is masked out on the beach as the camera pans around the grown up older brother
- The sound and music are on point
We could go on and on. It is a really well told story. So let’s take a look at the top 3 Kenyan films that we found to be most interesting out of the 20 that were submitted.
1. Irie! — Comedy by Warle Maina
Warle is an experienced and talented filmmaker, and this short film of his is no exception. The special effects to convey highness worked really well, and the transition when rastaman Kim gets dressed was just dope.
The ending felt a little rushed, but constraints are constraints. He packed a punch into 3 minutes and left us feeling Irie!
2. The Date — Comedy by Andrew Ongoji
This film by Andrew made us laugh.
It is comedy proper, from the soundtrack to the acting exaggerations. Like, how do you lick gloved fingers? And who’s the distinctly Kamba guy that randomly shouts off camera “Unaiba nini?!” 😂
The Date is definitely worth 3 minutes of your time.
3. Reflections — Short Film by Sarah Hassan
Sarah Hassan is a successful actress precisely because she is gifted. It was that giftedness that was on display in this short film, and probably why this is also the most viewed entry from Kenya. We felt that she had a massive opportunity to show rather than tell the story better (flashbacks would have taken the story to another level) and there were story gaps (like, how is the lady in black dressed the way she is, in a mental institution?) At the very least, a wardrobe change at the very end would have been perfect.
The best part is also the most disappointing part of the film: the plot twist. We find it—without reservation—to be a brilliant idea. But painfully, there is no character arc. At all. What’s the point of Reflections if they don’t change who we are?
Our Entry — 13 Letters
For our entry, we went with wordplay: the words Hope + Faith + Love have 13 letters in them. And they are the pinnacle of the writings of Apostle Paul, who wrote 13 letters to the early church. This is the key to solving the riddle that we wrote for the film, and a game of Scrabble was the perfect avenue for us to weave this into the story.
So that’s it! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the top 3 films, and any feedback on 13 letters. We’re planning a sequel, so you just might influence the plot.
Drop us a comment below!
Keep the lens rolling.