History was made last night when Gonarezhou The Movie, a Zimbabwean flick which raises awareness against anti-poaching and human trafficking, bagged the Best First Feature Narrative accolade at the just ended 28th edition of the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles, USA. The Sydney Taivavashe and Tariro Washe written, directed and produced work bathed in the international double glory along with Coming From Insanity, a Nigerian film directed by Akinyemi Sebastian Akinropo that follows the journey of Kossi, from being a domestic help for the Martins, an upper-class young family of four, to a big-time cash counterfeiter.
Indeed a tight race befitting a tie win, the two movies were up against Subira, a Kenyan film directed by Ravneet Chadha; Verde, a Dominican Republic film directed by Alfonso Morgan-Terrero; Real, a UK film directed by Aki Omoshaybi; Mr Weekend, a US film directed by Mckenzie Woodward; Bigman Wahala, a Ghanaian film directed by Daniel Adjokatcher; A Taste of Our Land, a Ugandan film directed by Yuhi Amuli; and Zulu Wedding, a South African film by Lineo Sekeleoane.
Gonarezhou The Movie registers the first time a Zimbabwean film has made it to the PAFF and to have a win is beyond amazing.
Taivavashe, as well as the lead actor Eddie Sandifolo and actress Tendai Chitima, were present in LA to receive the award.
In a statement to the press, Taivavashe said he was excited about their win and went on to laud the Pan African Film Festival for including Zimbabwean movies, Gonarezhou The Movie and the multi-award-winning and travelled Cook-Off directed by Tomas Brickhill, saying that it was a major feat for the Zimbabwe film industry.
“…its a really exciting time to see our production which we made with limited resources and just believing we are creating something that’s good and for that production to actually come out in LA, the home of film making… We are in Hollywood, in LA and have won an award. It’s major for us; it’s major for Zimbabwe film industry and it’s going to make people believe, now when we start knocking on their doors to believe that now we are something. This appreciation shows we mean business, we are onto something big and we need everyone to support as we start building Zimbabwe’s film industry,” said the director.
In a similar fashion, lead actress Tendai Chitima said she was excited to be coming back home with an award and thanked Taivavashe for giving her the shot.
“We are really excited, so glad to be coming home with an award, so happy to be coming back with something to show that we were put amongst the best in the game and obviously this is all kudos to Sydney who had the idea to write a brilliant script and it’s his first feature, as the category we were in. He did such a great job in writing such an amazing story and his vision came to life and I am just so glad to be part of his journey and to be part of the industry growing and being acknowledged for its work and for the talent that is in the film, it’s such an amazing film because there were so many talented people who were involved and ya, just so exciting.”
A kaleidoscope of continents, the Pan African Film Festival showcases the beauty of the pan-African experience, highlighting black creatives’ work that reinforces positive images and helps to destroy negative stereotypes. The 1992 established institution believes film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues.
The PAFF Best First Feature Narrative laurel would only be considered as a deserved feat as Gonarezhou The Movie showcases Zimbabwe’s young filmmaking talent while promoting conservation and drawing humanity to the plight of endangered wildlife. At a recent press junket held in Harare before he left for the US, Taivavashe said he hoped the film would help raise awareness that fighting poaching is not a white or government-only campaign but for everyone. That it was created by Tavainashe, an already National Arts and Music Award (NAMA) winner, aside, the movie also has an illustrious cast of Sandifolo, Tendai Chitima (Outstanding Actress in a Film Production 2019: Cook-Off), Charles Mzemba, Charlene Mangweni, Tinashe Nhukarume, songstress Tamy Moyo and first-time actress Tariro Washe.
Set in Masvingo, it traces the life of Zulu, an underprivileged man in rural Zimbabwe, as he falls into the hands of a notorious gang of poachers who lure him to be involved with the promise of riches as for him survival is a constant battle. Although he dreams of becoming a popstar and taking care of his invalid mother, he is a broken-hearted drunk. Eventually, his anger towards life thrusts him into the arms of welcoming poachers who become his family and together they become a notorious and successful gang of poachers under the charge of a vicious tycoon. However, the authorities begin to close in on the gang, and he makes plans to escape with his newly found love Thulo after one last job.
Here are some pictures of Sydney Taivavashe, Tendai Chitima and Eddie Sandifolo at the Pan African Film Festival, courtesy of Preston Hornbeck Photography.
Meanwhile, the film is set to premiere in Zimbabwe later in May in what the directors described as a local tour.