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Kenyan filmmaker loses suit over Netflix series ‘Volume’

Kenyan filmmaker David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga has been ordered by a court to pay German editor Christian Kramer Sh678,403 in a row over a Netflix project titled ‘Volume’.

Mr Kramer moved to court mid last year, saying Mr Gitonga refused to pay for the German’s input in the ‘Volume’ series that premiered on Netflix in December 2023. The German accused Mr Gitonga of using his expertise to obtain funding for the project from Netflix before production began.

According to Mr Kramer, the Kenyan contacted him by phone, saying he needed him to edit the “Volume” trailer and use the same to pitch to Netflix for funding. Mr Karmer said he edited the script for eight full working days before sending it to South Africa for colour correction to make it fit for purpose.

Thereafter, he delivered it to Mr Gitonga. An elated Mr Gitonga then shared the good news with Mr Kramer when the project was approved for funding by Netflix.

The court was told that the director started being elusive when Mr Kramer demanded his pay. Mr Gitonga instead sent the German film editor on a wild good chase, with promises of retaining him on another of his projects called “Disconnect 2”.

Mr Kramer told the magistrate court that he suffered losses of time and resources as he pursued Mr Gitonga for his dues. In his response dated July 24, 2023, Mr Gitonga told the court that he was a stranger to the claims made by the German film editor.

Mr Gitonga maintained that the two did not have a written binding contract. “During the hearing, the parties gave testimony and subsequently filed submissions which I have duly considered,” trial magistrate Barbara Akinyi said.

“The only issue for determination is whether there was a valid contract between the claimant and the respondent”.

The court considered email correspondence, text messages and WhatsApp chats between Mr Gitonga and Mr Kramer provided by the German in his affidavit.

“It’s clear from the claimant’s attached screenshots of their conversations on WhatsApp that there was negotiation and an offer from the respondent to the claimant,” the magistrate said. “The respondent approved the final version of the edited trailer and all this complies with the requirements of the contract.” It’s on that basis that the court found Mr Gitonga at fault. “Judgment is, therefore, entered against the respondent in favour of the claimant.

The respondent is to pay the claimant Sh678,403 and shall have the costs and interest from the date of judgment until payment in full,” Ms Akinyi said. Mr Gitonga has 30 days to launch an appeal. The judgment came just days after the Kenyan film director won the Best Documentary Award for “Two Villages” at the Open World Toronto Film Festival 2024, with the ceremony set for June 28.

The “Two Villages” documentary is a critic of claims of the scandalous work done by the North American-based NGO We Charity.

“Two Villages tells the story of the parallel existence of Chemengwa and its counterpart across the flowing Mara River,” the synopsis of the documentary reads. “On one riverbank, a village blooms, nourished by the benevolence of the North American-based NGO, We Charity.

It has become a beacon of progress, with clean water quenching the thirst of 30 communities, 852 schoolrooms echoing with laughter and learning and a hospital standing as a fortress against illness.” We Charity – formerly Free The Children – was exposed for having deceived donors under the guise of building two schools while only setting one up and leaving the residents of Chemengwa to hang on to a forgotten promise.

An investigation by CBC’s “The Fifth Estate” revealed that We Charity routinely misled schoolage children and wealthy philanthropists across North America for years as it solicited millions of shillings for school houses in Kenya and other projects in its AdoptA-Village programme. The organisation denied the allegations.