For more than half a century, Kenya’s natural landscape has graced the international
celluloid’s silver screen. Some of the earliest films shot locally include the 1950s epic
production King Solomon's Mines.
Starring Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger, the movie went on to scoop two Oscar
Academy Awards later in 1951 for the Best Cinematography Colour and the Best Film
This was closely followed by shooting and production of the film Snows of Kilimanjaro
(1952) featuring stars Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner.
A year later, yet another crew pitched tent in Kenya to shot Mogambo (1953) which
was directed by John Ford.
The film’s cast included veteran movie stars Clarke Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly
and Donald Sinden.
Though Snows of Kilimanjaro did not win any honours, Mogambo received the Golden
Globe accolades for Grace Kelly’s role as the Best Supporting Actress.
In the subsequent years after the 1960s, a string of numerous successive Box Office
hits have also been shot on location in different parts of the country.
Some of the stunning cinematography captured on these films, bears testimony of the
country’s incredible wealth of breathtaking and captivating scenery.
It was not until three decades later after shooting of Out of Africa (1985) that Kenya
made it yet again onto the roll of honour at the Oscars.
The film directed by Sydney Pollack starring Meryl Street alongside Robert Redford
– scooped a record seven Oscar awards including Best Cinematography and Best
Director category awards.
Other outstanding productions filmed locally include Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in
Africa – 2001) and Constant Gardner (2005), which went on to also scoop several
nominations at the Oscars.
Whereas the number of movies shot in the country has been on the decline over
recent years, the country still lags behind in terms of being a sought after film
This is in comparison to other regions across the continent such as South Africa and
Egypt. Yet the basis of past success can still serve as a yardstick to project on possible
Hence these prospects could be tapped to contribute towards injecting a much need
boost for the tourism sector.
According to a research study commissioned by the Kenya Wildlife Service a couple of
years ago, the findings underscored the role of films in marketing Kenya as a tourist
The respondents cited watching the popular blockbuster movie Lion King as the
reason why they chose to visit the country.
On the whole, there was a general agreement in the local tourism sector that the
impact of the film ultimately sustained a steady flow of tourists for almost a decade.
This incidentally was at a time when major film producers steered off Kenya owing to
poor government policies on film licensing.
Similarly, there are indications the choice of local locations to shoot documentaries
predominantly aired on the National Geographical series – has achieved success by
maintaining focus, albeit minimal on the country among potential, first-time tourists.
It is however indisputable that Kenya’s potential as a prime movie making destination
is yet to be fully exploited.