Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Zim’s film industry puzzle

By Prince Mushawevato

The evolution of the big and small screen in the last four decades is one confusing matrix.

Leroy Gopal in Yellow Card
Leroy Gopal in Yellow Card

Since Zimbabwe attained independence on April 18 1980, the motion picture industry has gone through a not-so-usual development model.

Imagine, an infant first learning how to run before being able to walk!

Impossible, is it not?

But somehow that is what happened with our film industry.

Unlike in most developing countries, the sector started on a high, went on a slump but is once again back on the growth trajectory.

It is through the hard work of brave and resilient individuals that we still find ourselves with a film industry to talk about.

The men and women have in the past 40 years successfully weathered storms that had the potential to wash away the gains made thus far.

Challenges ranging from lack of funding to use of obsolete equipment have, and still, haunt many producers.

Also, the film industry, just like any other sector in the country, has suffered from years of massive brain drain.

Talent in the form of producers, actors and technical staff was lost to other countries.

Arnold Tongayi Chirisa and Danai Gurira are working wonders in the Hollywood, while Chunky Phiri and Mbo Mahocs have found their groove in Mzansi.

The list is endless.

Veteran actress and producer Jesesi Mungoshi opines the last four decades cannot be described in a single sentence.

“From the 80’s up until 2000, or just before, local films were so good. We had so many independent producers and directors that were doing tremendous productions. But things changed for the worst soon after the turn of the millennium,” observes Jesesi Mungoshi.

“There is a big difference between recent and old productions. Old productions are more professional and gripping compared to the fresh work. I am glad, though, that there is now a positive turnaround. There are productions that can now match standards set in ‘Neria’ and ‘Yellow Card’.”

The quality of new productions, Jesesi Mungoshi added, has also been compromised by readily available technologies, which ordinarily put productions in the hands of amateurs.

“Women participation in film production remains low and I wish that could change. I am happy though that individuals like Beauty Masvaure that came through our association, Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe, are making a name for themselves in the Diaspora,” she said.

Various Government initiatives like the ongoing digitisation programme and alternative broadcasting platforms like DStv’s Zambezi Magic have made it easy for the industry.

Veteran actor, producer and scriptwriter Aaron Chiundura-Moyo weighs in.

“We have progressed in a way from the time of ‘The Adventures of Tiki’ in Rhodesia up to post-independence productions like ‘Neria’, ‘Everyone’s Child’ and ‘Flame’, among others.

“On the drama side, people like Mukadota and Paraffin were the face of television, not forgetting plays like ‘Solo naMutsai’ by Stephen Chifunyise.

“At some point we got up there but later on started falling. This was largely due to lack of funding and the piracy scourge that affected our market. When a producer works on a product and fails to get a market, it means his or her next project — if it comes — will not be of high quality,” notes Chiundura-Moyo.

Without doubt, the big and small screens have played a crucial role in promoting nation-building over the years. Through television, contentious issues like polygamy, inheritance, sex, illness and politics have been tackled and simplified in a humorous manner.

Big international productions such as the 1980’s “King Solomon’s Mines” and “Cry Freedom” set the pace.

These were to be followed by magnificently executed big screen productions like “Neria” (1992), “More Time” (1993), “Everyone’s Child” (1996), “Flame” (1996) and “Yellow Card” (2000), “Lobola” (2010) and “Gringo (Troublemaker) (2013).

On the small screen, “Mukadota Family”, “Mutirowafanza”, “Amakorokoza”, “Paraffin”, “Sinjalo”, “Kukhulwa Kokupela”, “Gringo”, “Maoko Matema”, “Wenera” etcetera have fed the whetted appetites of television viewers. The Sunday Mail