The good that women do

Award-winning actress, Marian Kunonga, talks about her role in Flame, a controversial 1996 war film, and her experience of being a woman in the film industry.

What can you say about your role in the film Flame?

Flame was a big success that introduced me to acting for the camera.

How did you become an actress?

I started acting as early as my pre-school days. I did a lot of poetry, drama dance and singing. I received my first award in drama when I did Grade 3 at Mutiunokura Primary School in Mufakose in 1983.

Who is your source of inspiration?

I was born a performer but the people who inspired me were Mrs Muhwati, my primary school teacher, Mr Emmanuel Sigauke who taught me in secondary school, Ben Josiah Hanson, who encouraged me to perform played a vital role in exciting the talent in me, and Albert Nyathi, Joyce Jenje-Makwenda and Petronella Munongoro who were instrumental in the development of my career.

What was the perception of women in film back then?

Back then, it was difficult for women to penetrate the film industry as it was generally not acceptable in our society. One was quickly labeled a prostitute or not the ideal woman. However, the attitude has changed as women are now empowered and are also getting support from society.

Explore the roles that women are given in films. Where does that put women in their struggle for emancipation and empowerment?

For me the lesson learnt is more important than the role. Whether one is given a role as a witch, prostitute or murderer, it does not matter. The fact is we live in a realistic world where such things happen and I do not think we have to make films that portray women as angels all the time. The truth is that we are not superhuman. In my line of work I meet good women and I meet bad women. Anyway, it is up to women in film to write a screenplay portraying the good that women do.

Tell me about your progression in the film industry, from being an actress to a director and lecturer.

I started off doing poetry, dance and drama from school, at secondary school, and I got a chance to perform at the Budding Writers Association Zimbabwe platforms. In 1996, I got a scholarship and studied film at Newtown Film School in South Africa.

I then directed award winning short films Zvinhu zvacho izvi in 2003 and Tiraburu in 2006 before joining the Zimbabwe Film and TV School of Southern Africa in 2010. Currently, l am a lecturer in Production, Design and Editing.

I choose to train upcoming artists because I noticed that people were taking film-making as a game. People were producing poor quality films and they made so much noise about them.

What advice can you give to upcoming artists?

They should get basic training on any form of art. It is also important for one to be passionate in this career as some venture into the film-industry for money.

What is killing the film industry in Zimbabwe?

Fly-by- night film-makers who are offering cheap rates to do something expensive. For example, I can quote $5000 to make an advert and someone comes and offers $1000 for the same job and a low quality product is produced.

How do you balance your life as a career women, wife and mother

I have kept my work and my life very basic indeed. I spend time with my three children every weekend. My husband is very supportive and he helps me out when lam busy.

Post published in: Arts

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