Zimbabwean movies and others…

Two questions on Zimbabwean Film. First, ‘how many people in Zimbabwe know the films that have been produced in Zimbabwe…?’ That should be an easy one hey? I’m sure a couple of popular movie titles come to mind but don’t tell me yet…Second question, ‘how many people know how many movies have been produced in Zimbabwe?’ Uhhhm, tough one hey…?

Well…maybe three or four, or so you think…Ok, enough of these trick questions. The point of these questions which may or may not have anything to do with the rest of this article is pretty simple. The movie industry in Zimbabwe has never fully blossomed to its true potential and we have continued to be consumers rather than producers of films. Of course there are many reasons for this which I will not get into now because that is not the focus of this particular tirade.

This is actually a serious article about the (current) state of the movie industry in Zimbabwe. This article has been inspired by a recent, momentous event in the African film industry. The launch of the inaugural African Film Library by Pay-TV broadcaster, DSTV. Whilst this is quite a positive development for African film as a whole, it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth as a Zimbabwean who has an interest in our local movie industry. My interest of course is both as a consumer and one time beneficiary of this elusive yet so pregnant with potential industry. If one looks on the African Film Library website, there is a list of countries as well as the movies that have come out of those countries. This of course makes it easy to know which titles have received critical acclaim from each country in the industry both locally as well as globally. This brings me to my bone of contention which in many ways has directly resulted in the penning of this missive.

For some reason Zimbabwe’s only entry on the African Film Library is a movie which of course was shot in the country, directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso and largely featured South African actors namely award winning duo of Vusi Kunene and John Kani. The title of the film is Kini and Adams (1997). This film is Zimbabwe’s entry on the African Film Library.

So, back to the trick questions…’how many people know the movie Kini and Adams? Let me guess, questions such as ‘do we even have a movie by that name in Zimbabwe’ come to mind? Perhaps it indeed was made in Zimbabwe, but is it a Zimbabwean movie? What qualifies that particular movie to e called a Zimbabwean movie? Of course, a few Zimbabwean actors such as Netsayi Chigwendere and Fidelis Cheza had bit parts in it, so can the claim that it is a Zimbabwean movie hold water? Personally, I believe there are no easy answers.

This article only seek to provoke the debate on ‘what kind of movies qualify to be called Zimbabwean movies’ and perhaps extend the question to say ‘what kind of movies qualify to be called African movies?’ Of course, the literary world has grappled with the same question for years and we have seen prominent writers such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiongo as well as our very own Dambudzo Marechera offering different and at times disparate perspectives on the matter. Perhaps we will never come to one conclusion, but the one thing clear is that ‘we know what DOES NOT qualify to be called African literature. In the same vein, a movie such as King Solomon’s Mines (1985) which was shot entirely in Zimbabwe, had a wholly European/American theme, and which also featured a few local actors as extra will certainly not even be considered as a Zimbabwean movie for obvious reasons.

The point is we do have genuinely Zimbabwean movies, with Zimbabwean stories written by Zimbabwean writers, with Zimbabwean actors, such as JIT (1990), Neria (1992), More Time (1993), Flame (1996), Everyone’s Child (1996), Yellow Card (2000), and more recent efforts such as Sores of Emmanuel (2010) Lobola (2011), Playing Warriors (2011) and The Gentleman (2012). I am sure there are a few other Zimbabwean movies that have been made which I have omitted or are currently in production but some if not all of these movies are good enough to represent Zimbabwe on the African Film Database?

It is hugely insulting that when such an important platform is created, a country like Zimbabwe has ‘pseudo-representation’ on it, which in my view is almost the same as having no representation. I am not sure to what lengths and depths the creators of this platform went to try and acquire the rights to place some of the other movies I have mentioned here on their list. In any case, it is quite disappointing that as much as Zimbabwe has not been that prolific in making movies, the few that have been made under some of the most difficult conditions still do not make the cut to be included on the African Film Library. I rest my case.

Tonderai Chiyindiko is a Drama and Theatre Lecturer at the University of Zululand, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He can be contacted on [email protected] He writes in his own capacity.

Post published in: Arts

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