Over the years, film production in Zimbabwe has been dominated by men, but this tradition is now changing. One of the first women to break the gender divide in the technical film production industry is Bulawayo-based Priscilla Sithole, who has set up a film production training project for young women called IBhayiskopo Film Academy.
She single-handedly started the academy in 2010, initially using her own meagre resources. “We started the academy with an intake of 20 female students.
A few students dropped out from the course for a variety of reasons but most of the students completed their studies after eight months training,” said Sithole in a recent interview with The Zimbabwean.
With financial assistance from the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Sithole managed to buy basic training equipment, including computers and cameras, from South Africa. A local NGO, Nhimbe Trust, chipped in with training premises but after six months, Sithole and her students found themselves with nowhere to conduct lessons.
“We were unable to continue using Nhumbe Trust premises because they were also facing challenges. I was forced to conduct the training in Centenary Park. This was a very difficult phase as some of the students were in wheelchairs. The location was also very noisy,” she recounted.
The training courses covered areas such as post production editing and short films production. The first batch of 15 students graduated in November 2011. The training enables participants to earn a living through filming and editing events such as weddings, church meetings and funerals. “The courses we teach ensure that on completion of training, the graduates are able to set up their own studios and make a living out of the skills we have equipped them with,” she said.
A former student, Nozipho Moyo, is proud of her achievements. “I am one of the first students to be trained at Ibhayisikopo academy. I was taught how to edit and make short films. Right now, I run my own small production house at my home where I offer services in video filming and editing .If I get money, I intend to further my studies in South Africa,” she said.
Another graduate, Mavis Moyo, said she was very grateful to Sithole for championing the project. “I see myself becoming a renowned film guru in Zimbabwe through this intensive training. I wish to produce more short films in my local Ndebele language,” she said.
Sithole‘s academy has also been contracted by local NGOs to train youths in rural areas on film production. “Last year an organisation called Youth for Today and Tomorrow (YTT) contracted us to train youths in Kezi on studio photography and filming. After completion of the training, the youths have now set up a studio at Kezi centre where they are offering various video filming and photography services to the local community .This project has changed the lives of the youths,” said Sithole.
Married with two children, Sithole was born in Bulawayo. She started her association with the arts in 1989 while she was an actress at Amakhosi Culture Centre. From 1990 to 1994 the dread-locked artist attended several studio filming workshops at Amakhosi. She has also toured several countries as a theatre actress with Amakhosi productions.
She recounted how, on one of Amakhosi’s tours to Switzerland in the 1990s, she first picked up a movie camera, an instrument not yet known to her at that time. It was from there that her passion for filming began. Sithole, together with another six Zimbabwean film makers has also been to Hollywood where she was exposed to various facets of international filmmaking and to the entertainment industry.
She called for more women to venture into film production and said her dream is to establish a film school in Bulawayo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or her cell number 0775520518. http://www.b-metro.co.zw/?p=5900Post published in: Analysis