The Film Industry in Kenya is regulated under various laws and legislations.In addition to the Constitution of Kenya, important Acts of Parliament for the sector include the Film and Stage Plays Act, Chapter 222, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act of 1988, and the Kenya Information and Communications Act of 2008 (Amended via KICA 2013) and the Kenya Film Commission Order No.147 of 2015 ( a legal notice made by the President of Kenya under the State Corporations Act (Cap 446 of the Laws of Kenya) expanding the mandate of the Kenya Film Commission to include archiving, establishment of incubators and a Film Fund).The Commission being the first parastatal to undergo the reform process in line with the Jubilee Manifesto. Another guiding legislation is the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act of 2013. These legislations guide the sector and provide the requisite framework. For effect, they should be read alongside other statutes such as the Copyright Act (Cap. 130, Laws of Kenya), VAT Act 2013 and Finance Act 2015.
There is need to build knowledge around the sector but research and documentation about film in Kenya are weak. Harnessing of this knowledge is taking place outside of government support. For example, in the documentary History of Film in Kenya 1909-2009 (Winner of the 2010 Kalasha Film and Television Award), viewers are treated to 100 years of the film making experience in Kenya and the contribution of various players in the industry. Further, Jean Hartley captures the contribution of wildlife film makers in her book Africa’s Big Five and Other Wildlife Film Makers (Twaweza Communications, 2010).
It is important to know where Kenyans are watching films and what are they watching. In an Audience Consumer Trends Survey Report commissioned by the Kenya Film Commission in 2010 found that with regard to going to the Cinema to watch a movie, majority of the respondents visit the cinema less often (46.9%) or have never even visited at all (34%). Only 8.9% visit the cinema once a month. The percentage of those who never visit the cinema increased when they were asked how often they visit cinemas to watch locally produced movies.
It was further noted during the Survey that visiting cinemas halls to watch movies was largely an urban phenomenon with most of the rural populace settling more for mobile cinemas or informal cinemas. The factors that influenced cinema going as mentioned by the respondents were: The title of the movie (27.7%), actors in the movie (25.8%), recommendations from friends (16.5%) and the cost being charged to watch the movie (13%) among other responses.
Concerning local content, the Survey found it notable that slightly less than half of the urban population (40%) watches movies with local content less often while 18% have never watched it before. The reasons attributed to why majority are not watching locally produced movies were: lack of awareness (28.3%), unavailability of locally produced movies (25.8%), prices charged for those movies (11.4%) and poor quality of locally produced movies (19.1%).
Nonetheless, the film sector continues to grow, thanks to a number of incentives favorable to the industry. We will briefly discuss some of these incentives before delving into the challenges:
Value Added Tax (VAT)
The VAT Act 2013 following amendments through the Finance Act 2015 provides for exemption of “goods imported or locally purchased for use by the local film producers and local filming agents subject to approval by the Cabinet Secretary to the National Treasury”. The Act further provides for the exemption of “services imported or procured locally for use by local film producers or local film agents certified by the Kenya Film Commission subject to approval by the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury”. This means that film producers importing equipment and services into the country and those purchasing the same locally are not be subject to VAT on these purchases