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90-Second Portrait

Director Blake Farber retraces the journey to take the Kenyan commercial “Go Ahead” from concept to the screen.

For the KCB Bank Kenya commercial “Go Ahead,” director Blake Farber and cinematographer Nicholas Bluff collaborated to craft a portrait of the vibrant people, places and spirit of Kenya. As the director reveals, though, taking the spot from concept into principal photography in mid-2020 wasn’t without its challenges.

“It was mid-pandemic when Nicholas and I got an offer to shoot this spot to show off the energy, sounds and overall flavor of Kenya,” Farber recalls. “We wanted a strong, cinematic anamorphic lens to show the real visuals of the country, so we contacted Panavision’s local distributor, Kenya Grip & Sparks Lighting, but we learned that all the lenses had been shipped out to Panavision’s South Africa offices. One big problem: South Africa was on a strict national lockdown, and their borders were closed.”

Undeterred, the filmmakers put their creative muscles to work and brainstormed a unique solution to their predicament. “Our only option was to write the president of Kenya and ask him to write the president of South Africa, requesting that he allow a Panavision South Africa representative to fly to Kenya for the good of the nation,” the director shares. “It worked, the representative landed the morning of the shoot, and we literally threw the lens on the camera minutes before shooting the very first scenes.”

Specifically, Farber and Bluff chose to work with Panavision’s G Series anamorphic optics. “The G Series was a great match for this project,” Farber notes. “It has a sweet spot when the light hits from the right angle that gives off some incredibly colorful flares that match the colorful environment of Kenya. 

“It was special to shoot in Kenya right after a lockdown,” he adds. “Where we were shooting is usually full of tourists, but instead it was only occupied by locals, which gave us a lot of flexibility to shoot in every direction. The old town in Mombasa was especially amazing because we could run down all the small streets and alleys without tourists appearing.”

Images courtesy of Blake Farber.