The Lab Experiment


Yesterday we held a big meeting to explain the concept of a Kino to all the actors, directors, editors and other interested parties. Rudy and I outlined how anyone could participate in the 48-hour film challenge, but that because we have limited equipment, we are especially interested in people who have their own cameras and/or computers. Each person came on stage to quickly introduce themselves and their goal. We encouraged them take notes and form groups afterwards. Most importantly, we then announced the theme for the Monday screening.


Since this is the first Kino in East Africa, we weren’t entirely sure how people would react to the challenge. So we announced two separate themes – both inspired by Burundi’s upcoming 50th anniversary as an independent country. The first is to create a 50 second commercial about Burundi. The second option is to make a short film (5 minutes max) about “the independence of” any subject they want. Both seemed specific enough to get people focused, but not so narrow that people would feel restrained. We then went outside and started signing up volunteers like we were recruiting for a war.


Part of the fun was announcing each bravely registered director and handing them a badge. It’s amazing how positively people react here to some simple organization. The days before were spent creating our badge, as well as posters and forms that covered equipment liabilities and other logistics. But having people sign papers in the face of a daunting challenge helped solidify their commitment and hopefully strengthen their resolve.


Today we set up the Kino Lab, which is a common room where everyone can come to edit their films. Having teams work in the same space helps keep the energy alive and allows people to problem solve together. Wonky aspect ratios, interlacing problems and dropped frames are the standard nightmares of all amateur videographers. The film festival here, for example, seems to care less about stretched faces and glitchy files. I do, however, so we’re going to do everything we can to present the films at their best.


The Lab itself is actually fairly impressive. We’ve temporarily procured three practically new iMacs and a number of Macbook Pro laptops from local producers who have been persuaded by our resolve. Over 50 actors have their headshots (which we took) and key info now adorning our windows. We even found an artist to place paintings in the only corner of the Lab not stuffed with equipment. Everything is meant to facilitate easier shooting and a more creative conducive atmosphere.


So far we have 10 teams signed up, but chances are they won’t all cross the finish line. Nevertheless, shooting and some editing is already underway as the teams scour the city under the protection of our all-encompassing shooting permits. The government has become uncomfortably restrictive in recent years with cameras in the street. Luckily we know the right people to keep the wheels greased.


The days are long, so it’s hard for me to do much more than skim over the events of the past few days. But as we build up towards our first screening, I look around and can’t help feeling like we have the right mix of raw elements to pull this little experiment off.

Christopher Redmond