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First-ever African Wildscreen Festival heralded as a landmark moment for natural world storytelling

Nairobi, 12th July 2023: The first ever Wildscreen Festival Nairobi debuted on 30th June and 1st July to an overwhelmingly positive reception, showcasing talent from across the continent. Delivered in partnership with Headline Sponsor BBC Studios Natural History Unit, over 230 people attended the two-day event held in Nairobi, Kenya. The first of its kind, delegates from across the industry packed out the panels, screenings and networking sessions which saw over 30 speakers participating. The Festival served as a wake-up call to the broader natural world film and TV industry providing much-needed attention and access to talent, creativity and stories within Africa.

Following its success as a Global Hub site for Wildscreen’s 2022 Festival, Nairobi evolved to be the location to host the African-wide event alongside its cultural role as being a centre of natural world storytelling content and a training ground for in-country talent. The Festival saw a collaborative partnership between Wildscreen, BBC Studios Natural History Unit, WildlifeDirect, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Film Commission, and the African Wildlife Foundation attracting multi-nation interest across the global industry.

Jahawi Bertowli, Festival Host and award-winning Kenyan Filmmaker and Presenter, commented on the event:

“It really has felt like a significant moment for African wildlife storytelling. In a sense, it’s like a seismic shift and things are now rumbling; the energy is there and it’s now for us to take that energy and run with it and put it to good use.”

Highlights from the event included the headline session, ‘Conservation Storytelling in Africa’, featuring Nancy Githaiga, Dr. Leela Hazzah, Dr. Winnie Kuru, Dickson Kaelo and Damaris Agweyu, where they discussed the crucial role of equity and inclusion of all in shaping conservation narratives. In another headline session, sponsored by iLCP, Kartiki Gonsalves spoke with Dr. Paula Kahumbu and shared their passion and expertise on the fascinating lives of elephants, whilst exploring how filmmaking can be a tool for change.

Wild Pitch, supported by National Geographic, saw three African projects awarded seed funding through the Festival to support the development of their film. The hotly contested session saw Anthony Onyango and Fedelis Kyalo win $10’000 USD to fund their project, ‘Matata and Friends on Safari’, a children’s TV show focussed on educating future generations about the importance of conservation. Meanwhile, Jigar Ganatra took home $6,000 USD for his project ‘Between Two Worlds’ and Trishala Naidu and Devin Trull obtained $3,000 for ‘Buoyant: A Turtle Tale’. Also, other content funding routes and platforms were explored and represented throughout the event.

Lucie Muir, CEO of Wildscreen, said:

“Together with our partners, we have sparked a movement here that has real momentum. There is so much creativity, talent and collaboration that has already evolved out of the twoday event – it’s imperative we keep evolving. There’s so much appetite for future events, over the coming weeks and months will be exploring how we build on this historic moment for the industry.”

The Cinematography Workshop, supported with kit provided by Wild MotionsBrian Henderson in Nairobi National Park, was well received by the chosen 12 filmmakers. Also, the Kenyan premiere of the Disney+ and National Geographic series ‘Secrets of the Elephants’ allowed delegates to watch the documentary and get exclusive insights from the team behind the series, including presenter, Dr. Paula Kahumbu.

CEO at WildlifeDirect, Paula Kahumbu added:

“Seeing so many African filmmakers sharing the stage with international giants of the industry was profound. I am so grateful for the support from the Kenya government, universities, our media industry and international partners for embracing African wildlife filmmakers. This festival has enormous potential to transform the wildlife filmmaking industry for good.”

Jonny Keeling, Head of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, said:

“The atmosphere at Wildscreen Nairobi was truly incredible. The event brought together over 200 attendees to explore new opportunities, share ideas and to network. We’re extremely proud and honoured to have been part of these amazing and inspiring two days. We look forward to collaborating further with all partners involved and continuing to build, celebrate and recognise the hugely significant role of Africa and African storytellers in the world of natural history filmmaking.”

Following the success of the Nairobi event, Wildscreen will be launching a Field Craft Panda Award for the 2024 Wildscreen Festival in Bristol, UK to recognise the critical role of incountry expertise including drivers and guides. More information for the bi-annual conference will be announced in late 2023. 

Learn more about Wildscreen Festival Nairobi.