When one passes through Bondeni slums in Athi River town, one is likely to twitch the corners of his or her mouth, hold his or her nose high and ask self, “What good can possibly come out of this filthy place?”
However, a group of actors, headed by a middle-aged man by the name Jonathan Mtakuja, is here to change that narrative. Every Sunday afternoon, Mtakuja, a father of three children, meets a group of enthusiastic actors for rigorous rehearsal.
The group named, “The High Classic Film Actors” is composed of actors of all ages; from teenagers, young adults and those above 40 years of age. Their rehearsals, which starts from 2 pm and ends at 4.30 pm, is fun as well as intensive.
Jonathan, whose second name, “Mtakuja” means “You will come” is a serious man. He does not condone jokers and lazy actors. The group members know better not to annoy him and so “they come” to the rehearsal sessions early and try as much as possible to give their best.
His efforts both as a director and a scriptwriter have seen the group released two films. The first film titled “Kichwa Ya Boma” released in 2017 and which he is also the lead actor was received well by the residents of Athi River.
It was launched in Bondeni and out of the 120 VCDs produced, the group managed to sell 118 copies. The second film “Ndau La Ndoa La Yumba P art 1” was released in early June 2019. “Ndau La Ndoa La Yumba Part 2” was released on Sunday, July 7, 2019, at Ngelani Junior Hotel in Athi River town.
The High Classic Film Actors produce films in Kiswahili language so as to reach the local audience. After practising for several months, they partner with Nincentian Studio which produces the video for them.
Coupled with the fact that they are working on a low budget, they produce their videos in locations and sites nearby. Nincentian Studio which is based in Nyambura area in Athi River has come as a blessing to the group as it, sometimes, offers them pro-bono services.
Apart from lack of finances to fund video production and pay actors, the group also faces other challenges like poor marketing, limited time for practice as most of the actors have to do other jobs to pay their bills) and poor coordination as they do not have an office to operate from.
However, Mtakuja has vowed not to give up saying he is bent on seeing the group push on and produce more films
He contends that they are currently working on a film titled “You are not rejected” due to be released in October 2019. The film addresses the issue of early marriage and female genital mutilation.
Other issues the group seeks to address in their films include teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, and prejudice. The group’s mission is to inspire a generation of actors and address social ills bedevilling our society.
Also, they have plans to produce children films in the future. Presently, they are already scouting for talents among children of ages between 5 and 13.
Mtakuja was born as an actor. He started acting in primary school and since then, he has never looked back. He was born in Makueni County but he relocated to Athi River where he lives with his family.
When he is not acting, he works as a stone dresser.