A Short Rant On The Zimbabwean Film Sector
As a we usher the Zimbabwe International Film Festival next week, the Zimbabwean film industry continues to struggle due to a lot of factors chief among them being financial support. However, one concerned local content love decided to chip in with his two cents on what he thinks is wrong with the film industry. The following is a Facebook post which was authored by Tendi Muchenje.
“This one is about Zimbabwean film and perhaps African film in general…
When I recall some of the best movies I have watched over the years, most end up being based on true life stories of iconic people. Films like Ali, Lincoln, King’s Speech, Malcolm X, Social Network, The Imitation Game, to mention just a few. These are the films that stick with me, not the VFX filled Transformers, Marvel and DC Comic movies etc. Don’t get me wrong, the latter are good movies as well, but I find myself more drawn to movies that I can relate to emotionally and in real life.
It is also true that historical dramas, loosely based on real events, are generally much cheaper to make as compared to the effects filled movies. Granted, salaries might cover the gap, but in terms of production resources, they are much cheaper to make. A good story line goes a long way.
Now, I know most of our movies are donor sponsored, but I am sure we have some ambitious production houses out there as well that are willing to go against the grain. My question then becomes, why do we not make movies that also tell the good stories in our history? I am honestly sick and tired of movies that talk about AIDS and HIV. I am sick and tired of movies about a second wife. I am sick and tired of movies about witchcraft. I am almost up to here with redundant comedy as well.
Why can’t we tell stories of people like Strive Masiyiwa? Stories of people like Kirsty Coventry, Maud Chifamba, Chidhumo, Masendeke, Dambudzo, Mosquito, The Golden Girls of Hockey, Nick Price the list goes on.
We say we are on this journey of re-branding our international image yet the only picture we paint for the world is the same poor and pathetic one that has always been forced on us. If we are going to change our own image, then we have to dictate the narrative. We have writers, historians, artists, actors and producers in our midst who can make these things happen.
You reckon a well directed movie about Strive’s journey would not sell beyond the borders of Zimbabwe? The man has more than 2 million followers and has the most engaged page of any business person in the world. It might not sell beyond the Cape to Cairo, but I am sure it will have a massive audience within those borders.
Instead of trying to compete with the West on VFX heavy films when they are on venture capital budgets and you are on a shoestring budget, let’s focus on stories that resonate with the intended audience. Film is a business, and for it to sell, it has to appeal. Who are you making your movie for?
I am also very aware of the fact that most films are currently donor backed and so have to fulfill the goals of the financier. But I do believe there are now new methods of fundraising that can be explored.
Instead of waiting for donor funding for the next AIDS/witchcraft/polygamy movie, I would like to see production houses start Kickstarter campaigns for movies that tell the stories that we want to tell. GoFundMe is not only for repatriation of dead bodies and funeral expenses from the diaspora you know. In fact, they are in place primarily for ambitious projects like these.
Oh one day I hope to see a movie about not about the rise of Facebook, but about the rise of Mobile Money. Not about the Mighty Ducks, but about the Hockey Golden Girls Team, not about Jack Nicklaus but about Price, not Bonnie and Clyde but Chidumo and Masendeke, not Ali but Mosquito, not Good Will Hunting but Maud Chifamba, not Dickens but Dambudzo, not ‘them’ but ‘us’.
At some point, we have to realize that although a lot of things are screwed up about our economy, the onus is on us to make do with what we have. We talk of unemployed graduates… Among them I am sure they are writers, actors, artists, costume designers, accountants, marketers and all else that is needed to make a damn good film. Come together, find each other, come up with a damn good team, a damn good story and a well laid out budget. Put up a GoFundMe for it. Beyond that, it is on us, the rest of society who are always mocking our film production, to put money where our mouths are and support these guys.
Little by little, we will get there. Rome was not built it a day. Neither was it built from the ceiling down, so let’s perhaps forget about the capital intensive barely relateable VFX movies and start from the ground up. Blessing Chinanga and your team at Invision Studios, DearLuckie Aaroni and theBustop TV team, Joe Njagu and crew… surely, this is possible right? Or it’s just wishful thinking.”
What do you think? Share your thoughts with us below in the comments section!