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Coastweek -- Seen [from left] Indian investor, Praveen Jain, Safinaz Foundation chairman, Aasif Karim, Cambodian filmmaker and KISFF award-winner, Manish Sharma and KISFF head of production, Rachael Wainaina.
KISFF - First for Kenya and a First for Africa 

Coastweek -- Last Sunday, curtains came down on the inaugural Kenya International Sports Film Festival (KISFF) at the Aspire Centre, Westlands, where, in a red carpet black-tie event, winners in 14 different categories were awarded trophies.

In this festival, that’s dubbed, “a 1st for Kenya and a First for Africa”, Ethiopia and Japan claimed first blood when they took home three trophies each. Ethiopia’s feature film, I Won’t Bear No More won Best Cinematography, Best Editor and Best African Film.

Last Hold, from Japan, won Best Director and Best Feature Film. Wrestler, also from the same country, scooped Best Animation.

Acokoro and Imara spared Kenya the blushes. The former, by Ida Waringa, won Chairman’s Award, Best Kenyan Story. The latter won Best Short Documentary.

Montevideo, from Serbia, won two awards; Best Production and Best Screenplay, Feature Film.

Best Short Film went to, Are You Volleyball, from Iran; Best Sound, Feature Film to, Fan of Amoory, the UAE; Best Documentary was won by, Boston, from the USA; while Baokchambab, from Cambodia scooped the Jury’s Special Award.

Coastweek -- Japan’s ambassador to Kenya, HE Toshitsogu Uesawa, left, receiving one of Japan’s three KISFF awards on behalf of his winning citizen from KISFF festival director, Florence Nduta.

Prior to the gala event – at the Louis Leakey Auditorium – more than 20 sports films and documentaries were screened, which had been submitted from different parts of the world. Plus, spread out in the four days of the festival were 10 panel discussions, which tackled different sports-related issues.

Speaking during the opening of the official opening festival on 22nd November, the CAS of Sports, Culture and Heritage, Hon. Hassan Noor Hassan, commended the organisers of the festival. 

Also in attendance during the opening was the CEO of Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) Dr. Ezekiel Mutua, dignitaries, members of the diplomatic corps, retired and active sportspersons, film practitioners and enthusiasts and KISFF’s secretariat and KISFF’s brand ambassadors; legendary track athletes, Rose Tata Muya and Douglas Wakiihuri.

Apart from screening of films and documentaries, panel discussions also formed a sizable portion of the festival.

Journalism forms a fundamental part of sports, because – as the mirror and (sometimes) moral compass of society - the fourth estate informs, educates and entertains. The first KISFF panel was on Sports Journalism in Kenya. Moderated by Kariuki Thige, the panellists were veteran journalists; Sammy Lui, Larry Ngala and Topi Lyambila.

The panellists called on sports journalists to have more passion and drive, and decried the “brown envelope” syndrome; which means that stories are published or killed when cash exchange hands.

“There were about 848 golfers when I started writing about golf, but now we have more than 10,000. The reason I’ve been covering golf all these years is because of the passion that I have for the sport,” Ngala told the audience. Ngala has been Kenya’s go-to golf journalist for the past four decades. 

Thige lamented that, in the audience, there were not as many sports journalists and journalism students, who missed the golden opportunity to glean oodles of knowledge from the veteran panellists. 

On the second day of the festival, there was a clear amping up of issues as this panel tackled the current medical science scourge that is plaguing Kenya sports,: Drugs and Doping in Sports. This panel was moderated by Dr. Pramod Shah. The panellists were Sharad Rao, Dr. Muthoni Ntonjira, Douglas Wakiihuri, Wilfred Bungei and Barnabas Korir from Athletics Kenya.

Sharad is a familiar face in the corridors of justice. In 2012, he was appointed by President Mwai Kibaki as chair of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board. And in 2016, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics Board appointed the intrepid lawyer to investigate alleged breaches of the IAAF Code of Ethics, in relation to potential subversion of anti-doping control process in Kenya.

“Two things are important, and one is we need to emphasise to the athletes that gone are the days when you got away with doping,” Sharad said. “The second thing is that we should emphasise the side effects, such as kidney failure.”

The panel narrated how there are doping cartels operating in Iten, Kapsabet and other bedrocks of Kenyan athletics. These cartels make easy money from ignorant athletes; most who want to win races and hit paydirt by any means necessary.

The panel and audience concurred that there needs to be more education and sensitisation of athletes, and that doping tests should be done on other sportspersons in other disciplines, and not just limited to track athletes who are generally perceived as the “usual suspects”.

The second panel on day two of the festival was on Parasports and Special Olympics. It was moderated by Douglas Sidialo, and the panellists were PS in the Ministry of Sports, Josephta Mukobe, Susan Masila, Henry Wanyoike and Mathews Mugenya.

Susan is the CEO of Special Olympics Kenya, Henry is a visually-impaired marathoner and Mathews is a former paralympian and founder of an organisation that identifies and nurtures parasports talent at the grassroots.

Mathews told the audience that the first Paralympic that Kenya participated in was in Heidelberg, Germany in 1972.

“In total, in Paralympics alone,” Mathews said, “Kenya has won 42 medals since that debut more than fourty years ago; 16 gold, 15 silver and 11 bronze. Internationally, Kenya ranks among the top 10 countries.”

On her part, Susan said that Special Olympics Kenya started participating in the world games in 1983, and has never missed any world game since. In the recent Summer Games in LA, California, the team bagged 11 individual gold medals, as well as team silver and bronze medals. In total, they hauled 40 medals just from one game.

On day three of the festival, during the panel on Kenya Sports Administration and Financial Management , eminent panellist Dr. Abbas Gullet – who is the secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society, and has been instrumental in turning around its fortunes - challenged sports federations and persons who want to get into sports management to have moral and financial probity. 

“Any sporting association that is interested to benchmark, let them know that my doors are open. We need to have institutions that are well-managed and well-governed, and all the other things will fall into place,” Dr. Gullet said.

Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch, who was in the audience, said that she supported threw the gauntlet at the door of sports bodies, telling them that they must raise the bar on matters of integrity.

Next in line was the panel on Sports Dispute Resolution and Sports Tribunal. Moderated by Isaya Evans, the panellists were lawyers John Ohaga, Mercy Okiro, Sharad Rao and Kihara Muruthi.

“One of the things I found when I joined the tribunal was that the jurisdiction was relatively limited,” Ohaga noted. “But as we have gone on, we have found that more sports people are bringing their disputes before the tribunal, notwithstanding the narrow powers the act gives us.”

“A court is not supposed to interfere in the decision of the sports tribunal,” Mercy pointed out. “But when a court opens up its doors to litigation, it becomes a Pandora’s Box such that any other decisions that are made by the tribunal can be appealed or someone can get an injunction.” 

The last panel of the festival was on the future role of sports in Kenya and beyond. It was moderated by media personality, Julie Gichuru. The panellists were Dr. Auma Obama, Victor Muniafu, Maxwell Muniafu, Isaac Wanjohi and Irfan Karim, who is a scion of the Karim sporting dynasty.

“I work with young people, between the ages of 4-25 years,” Dr. Auma said. “The first pillar of our work is personality development and character-building, and our role is to teach young people to be responsible and be part of the decision-making process. The facilities of Sauti Kuu in Alego, Siaya County belong to the young people.”

David Waters, who is involved in different facets of Kenyan cricket, and who had moderated in the prior panel on Cricket in Kenya, was in the audience and gave his take on the ongoing discussion. 

Most schools have zero sporting facilities. The programme David runs provides cricket sporting facilities and - besides acting as Cricket Ambassadors - they aim to build pupils’ character, passion, curiosity, determination, social intelligence and self-control.

“When we started four years ago, schools and parents were reluctant; they were of the opinion that if we introduced sports into their curriculum, it would adversely affect their kids’ academic studies,” David said.

“Four years down the line, several primary schools in the slum areas that we work in have achieved their highest ever Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results. A headteacher said that our programme was the main reason for the improvement.”

The panellists and audience pointed out that schools’ curriculum should have sports as part of it, and that there should be more spaces for games and sports in estates.

Julie, who hosts high profile sessions – attended by heads of state, captains of industry and movers and shakers of society - promised to take this issue a notch higher; to a high level panel discussion on TV.

The other panels were on Life and Post-sports life, the previously mentioned Cricket in Kenya, Women and their contribution in Sports and Society, and also a panel on The Role of Film in Sports.

All panel discussions were streamed live online, courtesy of Telkom Kenya and Talanta Institute. The organisers of KISFF hope these discussions will subsequently lead to a working document, which may be used by all stakeholders in the sports sector.




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