Lost in Time is something we should all be proud of. I will forever be a fan of home-grown projects sans funding or support from international bodies for the mere fact that in terms of ownership it is fully ours. Another huge moment for me is witnessing the growth of people you root for on a regular. For me, it’s Peter Kawa. Mostly known as an actor and a producer with Hearts of Art, he can now add another feather to his cap as an erstwhile director.
Film Lab Kenya had a robust campaign online that only served to whet our appetites and a lesson I picked up, it helps to have a catchy title for hashtags later. It was #Lit . The film had its last screening on the 3rd of November which I attended.
Mental Health is currently an important topic the world over. Edijoe Mwaniki, a writer chose to pen down his thoughts on the subject and craft the story of a man who is caught up in a prison that only he can break out of. Introducing ‘Lost in Time’; the story of a man who is obsessed with answering the question ‘Where is Sifa?’
Sam played by George Mo, loves his family fiercely and would do anything for them. His world is turned upside down when he has to go home and bury his father, with whom he had a strained relationship. His childhood friend convinces him to move back home now that he has laid his demons to rest. Sam is reluctant to move back to his childhood home so his friend offers to host them until they can find a place of their own.
That is when the problems begin. He starts hearing and seeing things and increasingly gets paranoid; especially where Sifa is concerned. It all goes to hell when she disappears under the care of his friend’s wife, Dr. Lillian.
What follows is a loop of Sam trying to escape captivity at the hands of his hosts. He is thrown back and forth between the past and the present, confronted with truths surrounding his mother’s death and finally finding out what happened to his beloved daughter Sifa.
So, what happened to Sifa? They were involved in an accident that killed her and had him in a coma for months afterwards. Everything we were watching until he woke up was basically him dealing with the trauma in his life before.
It had a bittersweet kind of ending, he had to go get committed for a while until he was well. He let go of Sifa but learned that he had a second chance with a new baby, Neema.
It’s a universal story that can be relevant anywhere. The technical crew did justice to visually translating the story and I think the post production team, especially the editing department deserves a special mention. They managed to make me feel the disorientation and confusion that Sam was going through.
Karanja Kiarie is known as a music producer but I think as a Sound Designer his future is equally bright. George Mo was phenomenal and I can’t imagine how much this took from him. I am glad that the production took a chance on fresh faces with Sheila Murugi who played his wife and Dora Nyaboke, who played his GP. We need to have this be the norm and not the exception.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
You remember the loop I mentioned? It was exhausting. I know the writer wanted to take us on the journey but honestly if I were watching it from home, I would have changed the channel.
There is a principle in storytelling: simple story, complex characters. It felt like the only person who had a somewhat complex character was Sam. The rest were rather two dimensional. They tried to round out the therapist, Doctor Lillian. It felt though like the brief she was given was ‘be stern for this part of the movie, then be sweet and caring for this second part’. Truthfully, I didn’t connect with the characters. (I know the primary antagonist here might be argued to be Sam, but the Doctor is undoubtedly portrayed as one too.)
Now this next bit is a touchy one, but I may as well go there. The little girl playing Sifa was so pretty but it felt like she lacked personality. I only saw snatches of her finding her voice towards the end of the movie. I think she needed to be coached into actually getting there. It felt like she was reciting her lines just to get through the take. She looked very self-aware and nervous which happens even to adults, but if she is to grow into it, work needs to be done.
I know there are fathers and daughters who are very close, but when he would hug her and tickle her it somewhat made me uncomfortable. This girl looks about nine or ten; I wondered how she felt with that much close contact as a child actor who is yet to understand how to articulate her boundaries. I feel as a Director you aren’t only responsible for telling the story but making sure that your storytellers (the actors) feel safe and comfortable. For me, another display of affection could have been explored.
The new baby, Neema who was meant to be a girl was clearly a boy. I don’t know how I caught it with the baby swaddled (maybe it’s a woman’s intuition) but that just left me amused. The script could have been adapted to the boy; it wouldn’t have been a huge dent to the story.
Film scoring is the hidden reason why certain films and scenes and monologues stay stuck in your mind after the credits roll. In this respect, there were good attempts made but personally the songs though emotive were distracting to me.
The last scene dragged on for longer than necessary. It would have ended without the verbose goodbye and the last farewell I feel should have gone to his wife and kid, not to his friend’s wife. But that’s just my opinion and preference.
All in all, this is a great start. We are moving in the right direction and it can only get better. Looking forward to more stories from Film Lab Kenya.
Click here for Trailer
Click here for Lost I|n Time’s Theme song by Mercy Masika