One on One With Veteran Filmmaker Betty Kathungu Furet

28 May of 2018 by

Who is Betty Kathungu Furet?

I’m a Film, TV & Documentary Producer, Director and Screenwriter working at Furet Films in Runda, Nairobi. I’m married to Sebastien Furet and we have two children. I consider myself a storyteller whose medium is the visual arts.

What are some of the most prominent projects in your career so far?

I made my first feature film ‘Wangai’s Cross’ in 2006 when I was still a student in film school. We launched the film to a full house at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi, and it went on to air on Mnet, Zuku and K24. The success of this film affirmed my belief as a producer and I call it the beginning of my career.

Since then I have made two more full-length features, a series called ‘Mazagazaga’ that has aired on Mnet, KTN, and TV1 in Tanzania and is currently on ShowMax.

You had a successful TV show called ‘Magerio’ tell us a little about it.

The advent of Digital Broadcast created the need for producers and TV networks to innovate on ways to target their audiences more directly. This need gave rise to vernacular content being aired n VOD and also on mainstream TV networks.

‘Magerio’ is a Kikuyu comedy TV series that follows the life of a modern-day church leader and his family. It airs on Kameme TV. It has been well received by audiences and we are excited to see the growth and the future of this show.

You recently ventured in documentaries e.g. Chaka riverside gardens and Nairobi women’s hospital college. How has the journey been?

I have always had a passion for documentary filmmaking. I have produced and directed ‘Unveiling The Colony’, a historical documentary series that touches on Kenya during the colonial period. The documentary focuses on Lord Egerton, Lord Errol, Grogan, Delamere, the history of Muthaiga Country Club, The Norfolk Hotel, The Wilson Airport and other prominent figures and places that shaped colonial

Documentaries are a great passion for me because they are ‘real’. They talk about real issues of a society or a community, and they are instrumental in preserving and documenting history. Through documentaries, we are able to evaluate ourselves as humans and tackle issues that are instrumental in our lives – past, present and future.

What inspired these Documentaries?

I’m a naturally curious person. I read widely and carry out research on things that I do not know. I seek answers to any questions that I may have. I love history. This is the inspiration behind every documentary project that I embark on.

Chaka Riverside Drive documentary is part of a travel blog called SITES & PLACES that is being run by my partner Simiyu Barasa. It was inspired by the fact that Kenya is a beautiful country, and we filmmakers are in a unique position to transverse the length and breadth of this country in the course of our work, as we travel to various locations shooting films, shows and documentaries. Barasa decide to film every exciting and beautiful location that we come across and share Kenya to the world from the eyes of a local filmmaker.

How was the process of creating these documentaries, and what challenges did you face?

Every documentary begins with a question, someone seeking to find something out. Who were these Lords that lived in colonial Kenya and what were they all about? What was the first airport in Kenya? Why is this road named after this person? Who is this man that feeds these homeless children every evening? In seeking these answers, a documentary is formed.

The challenges that one faces are mostly research and access. As a society, we are not very good at archiving and keeping records, so research becomes difficult. It is also expensive to gather information because you have to read widely, travel widely interviewing different people from different places. Access becomes an issue because we are not a very trusting society and it takes time to build a rapport with someone to get them to give you all the information that you need. It takes time and effort.

Last year your comic film ‘Kizingo’ won best feature film at The Riverwood awards. Tell us about this experience.

Barasa and I decided to make ‘Kizingo’ as an experiment, so to speak. We wanted to independently produce a full length feature, not too expensive and suitable for all audiences.  We did not expect ‘Kizingo’ to please the critics and the audiences as much as it did. It was a pleasant surprise to win the top honour in the country in 2017.

How has winning the award affected your career?

The award has cemented our place as filmmakers of repute in Kenya. More people are aware that we exist both as individuals and as a company, and that we do entertaining and quality work.

What projects should we look out for?

We are currently in and preproduction development consecutively for two films, PROMISES and JOMO. PROMISES  is a coming of age story, written by Owino Sang’iewa, directed by Simiyu Bara and produced by myself. JOMO is a film about the independence struggle of Kenya and our first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

You cannot be a filmmaker if you don’t shoot. My advice is just keep shooting and you’ll get better as you go along. I’ll quote on the most iconic filmmakers, James Cameron who said,

“Pick up a camera. Shoot something/ No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends or your sister star in it. Now you are a director. Everything after that you are just negotiating your budget and your fee”

 

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