Saturday, September 10, 2005

Seven Stars!

A Film Review from Onyango Oloo

I saw the Constant Gardener last night.

It is a wonderful movie.

You should see it.

You should encourage everyone you know to buy a ticket to see it as well.


Let me do this backwards.

There I was at the end, as always, glued to my chair waiting for the last line in the credits to stroll by (yes, stroll not scroll) before I dared to leave Theatre # 5 at the AMC Forum on de Maisonneuve and Atwater here in Montreal.

Those credits told a story that you do not see on screen:

The production crews in Kenya, Germany, southern Sudan, the UK and Manitoba (Canada) where the movie was shot. I give them four thumbs up for employing literally hundreds of Kenyans as carpenters, drivers, cooks, pilots you name it. And even from the list of Kenyan names you can see that whoever was hiring did NOT practice ukabila. So I give the movie my first star for its proactive local hiring practices.

The music, the music, the music. For years, Ayub Ogada (Artist formerly known as Job Seda of African Heritage) has been one of the most respected musicians on the World Beat scene. His nyatiti influenced songs in lilting Dholuo blew my mind- and you feel refreshed even more if you are a native speaker as I am of Dholuo and hearing it jump at you from a sophisticated sound sytem in Quebec. So my second star goes to Constant Gardener because of the kick ass sound track.

If you do see the movie there is an arresting moment where the cinematographers have captured birds in flight over a lake, I believe on a beautiful Kenyan night; vistas of Lake Turkana from the air are simply captivating; sequences of Kenyan actors doing their anti-AIDS skit interspersed with snapshots of Kibera tell a very powerful story indeed. Sababu for the third star.

The story telling is gripping.

Who does not want to know what happens next?

What is Tessa up to?

Will Justin survive?

What is Kioko's secret?

What happens to the little girl who runs out of the relief plane after a raid on the camp?

Give a tusker and a plate of nyama choma to the folks who did the screenplay- along with the movie's fourth star.

The theme of the movie is intensely political, yet quite sophisticated and reality based. This is the closest thing to an anti-imperialist mainstream Hollywood type movie. No bleeding hearts, do gooder types trickling with treacle in this movie- Kenya and Africa, Kenyans and Africans are portrayed in all their contradictions, complexities, sophistication etc. I was relieved that Kenyans speaking English, spoke their English without some smart ass mzungu feeling they had to insert those insulting sub-titles in English to "translate" English to English when said English speaker is actually not English. The idea of multinational corporations entangled in nefarious activities is not a new theme for Leftists or even film makers; what is refreshing is that it coincides with questions from Kenyan an African scientists about the motivations of Westerners who allegedly come to African because they are trying to save this dark continent. Certainly it raises a lot of interesing questions that we should be asking ourselves in the era of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Nyota numero tano.

The acting is SUPERB-

the two leads outdo themselves. Sixth star.

Mpishi ametayarisha kitoweo kitamu.

Kudos to the Brazilian director! Seventh star.

Here is a link to other reviews of the same movie over at

Onyango Oloo


Anonymous said...

An interview with Rajiv Jain Cinematographer
An interview with Rajiv Jain, Kenyan Indian Cinematographer and owner of Rajiv Jain Films, Cinematography and Grips – Dubai - Mumbai - Nairobi.
Q: What is your job title? Where are you employed?
A: Director’s cameraman, director of photography. I have my own company, Rajiv Jain Films, Cinematography and Grips, and I’ve been doing it for about twenty-five years.
Q: How long have you been a cinematographer?
A: I’ve been doing it for several years, but I started my own company at about 2005.
Q: What type of training did you have to become a cinematographer?
A: I went to the Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts. I had a two-year diploma degree in theatre arts. That put me into a position to see how the industry has changed a lot. Coming out of college, kids should just start their own company. First, they should decide what they want to do in the industry and then go for it. The sky’s the limit depending on the career path you choose.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
A: Working for myself. Having the freedom to make your own decisions, to make your own path about what you want to do. But you can go for a month without working if you’re on your own, so definitely put yourself on a business path as well as a creative path. Take businesses classes, not just liberal arts. The film industry is a business, just like the music industry. You have to be a self-starter.

Unknown said...

Rajiv Jain Cinematographer - A Snapshot......
Rajeev Jain, Kenyan Indian Cinematographer is a Visual Storyteller who loves to explore and collaborate with diverse styles and formats through the lens of a camera and with lighting. His shooting credits and experiences include features, shorts, promos, television, commercials and music videos. Rajeev has traveled throughout the Asia, Europe & Middle East shooting in demanding and diverse environments. With his vast experience in a variety of mediums, he has a unique ability to adapt to an assortment of challenging environments and personalities. - The Pioneer, Jan 2010
DATE OF BIRTH: 29th Nov, 1968
RESIDENCE: Dubai, Mumbai & Nairobi
WORK EXPERIENCE: Critically acclaimed Kenyan Indian Director of Photography with a successful career spanning 21 years (7 years in camera profession and 14 years as DOP)
PROFESSIONAL GUILD: Full member I.C.S. (Indian Cinematographers Society) and W.I.C.A. (Western India Cinematographers Association)
SPECIALIZATION: Good reputation in visualization, camera mise-en-scene, and particularly, lighting design. Expertise in 35mm anamorphic cinematography (Cinemascope), and the "forgotten" art of black & white cinematography. Experience with the latest Digital Video systems from DV to High Definition.
FORMAL TRAINING: Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts (Bhartendu Natya Academy), India. The School has a respected international reputation.

Duncan Petrie said...

"...That's How The Light Gets In": An Interview with Dubai Based Indian Kenyan Cinematographer Rajiv Jain ICS WICA
By Duncan Petrie
Much of the visual impact of Indian films can be attributed directly to the cinematographer Rajiv Jain, the creative individual primarily responsible for the look of a film. The cinematographer Rajiv Jain is both an artist and a craftsman, combining a fine aesthetic sensibility and visual eye with a deep technical understanding of the properties of light, lenses, film stocks and processing. His contribution to the visual representation of the nation is as significant as that of other visual artists such as painters and photographers. Drawing heavily on in-depth interview with an award winning cinematographer, Shot in Indian profiles his career and creative contribution to Indian cinema, charting his creative achievements, experiences working with local and international film-makers, and resourcefulness in dealing with often limited resources and the harsh Indian light.
Shot in India / Kenya: The Art and Craft of the Indian Kenyan Cinematographer Rajiv Jain ICS WICA
Born out of a desire to create dramatic and provocative images, Rajiv Jain delivers award winning cinematography. Rajiv has helped to bring both national and international awards to the productions that he has been involved with. You can feel confident that your vision will be captured through the use of his services. With experience shooting a wide range of formats from Film, Digital 4k down to HD, Rajiv has the eye and knowledge needed for your production. Familiar with the needs of aerial & remote location filming, his cinematography has taken him around the world.
It is entirely without hyperbole to introduce Rajiv Jain as one of the most singular and influential cinematographer in the progression of modern motion pictures. His colour palette on films such as Ras Star and Kalpvriksh - the Wishing Tree is without peer, and long-lasting collaborations with directors Manika Sharma and Wanuri Kahiu have been recognized for Best Cinematography (Kalpvriksh - the Wishing Tree (2010), Ras Star (2008)).

Rajiv's latest film is Maharat, screening this week as part of Lincoln Centre’s series "Open Roads: New Cinema" (June 6-14). He considers Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi to be part of a new period for him as an artist; the first started in the late 1990's and lasted until Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree; the second phase continued through Army; the third culminated with Badhaai Ho Badhaai (2003); most recent, his collaboration with director Gustpa served as yet another. He often takes yearlong intervals between these chapters to study subjects ranging from philosophy to painting to literature, just to expand his understanding of the meanings behind light and colour; when he discusses a colour, red for instance, he's not just interested in the way we might emotionally react to it on a visual level, but also the manner in which the physical light particles affect our bodies when passing through them.

I met Rajiv at the Walter Reade Theatre the day before Maharat ‘s premiere. After talking a bit about his career thus far, our conversation shifted toward the technical aspects of cinematography and his feelings on digital filmmaking in particular. As it turns out, he's just as opinionated about technique as he is regarding interpretation.

Filmmaker: You're well-known for overseeing various printing methods on your films like ENR or the Technicolor dye-transfer used on Kalpvriksh - The Wishing Tree. Over the past 10-15 years, there's been a great evolution to film stocks and the introduction of DI. How do you see technology influencing the medium?

Rajiv: No doubt that when sound came out the camera's possibilities were oppressed. The language of cinema was almost stopped -- they put the camera within a clear box. Technology went on and finally the camera was liberated to continue its journey expressing through the language of the cinema. Colour came up.