By George Kinuthia
Often, we do not give much thought to the role of cinema in our lives and society in general. Not generalizing but I’d say most of us start out by watching movies that we think we will enjoy, or those that we already know are popular. That is sort of how our taste in movies begins. Eventually, we choose to stick to preferred genres – the familiarity is sure to set us into that movie mode. Occasionally though, we may venture into unfamiliar territory; and surprisingly get to enjoy. Either that or watching becomes as much a challenge as trying to understand the story embedded in the movie.
Films have an astonishing power to induce emotion by portraying our experiences, vulnerabilities, hopes, fantasies, dreams and aspirations while at the same time entertaining, educating and transmitting culture. Every country has stories to tell, about their past, their culture now, and views of what the future will look like through their eyes. You know those scenes with students, sassy girls, ghosts, soldiers, clowns, politicians, vagrants, artistes e.t.c – all form a part of social and cultural identity. Movies may as well be the most effective way to understand a society. Good films may leave us scared for ourselves and more respectful towards things we hold dear. That is therapy right there.
Movies have the ability to create controversy, and tell difficult stories. They create conversation. Pick a simple yet magnificent film like The King and the Clown. The film subtly addresses homosexuality in the conservative Korean society, while at the same time exposing such issues as political tension, corruption and other vices that the society faced at that particular time setting. Amidst all these, there is humor through satire, and values of courage, love, loyalty, commitment, and a beautiful sense of music still prevail. The same can be said about 18 Hours. In this 2017 film, a pedestrian is involved in a hit-and-run that leaves him with serious head injuries. What follows is an insight into the plight of Kenya’s healthcare system – precisely the sorry state of emergency care services. Still, there is love, resilience, and a unique sense of beauty in the story.
If you want to appreciate cinema in a different way, and from a different perspective, then the best way would be to plunge into those movies that you are not familiar with. In the spirit of the magazine – and if you haven’t tried it already – why not bridge to a movie from Korea, if you are Kenyan; a Kenyan one, if you’re Korean; or both, if you are neither?