Over the years, the political crisis in our country has negatively affected amongst other things, the film industry. Finance has become a big hindering factor because there’s no constant cash flow supporting the arts industry. We have lost most of our experienced and talented people to greener pastures and we have sort of become a ‘ghost’ country in terms of feature film production.
A closer analysis will reveal that our local films have rarely brought in big earnings or critical acclaim simply because there were no big names like Whoopie Goldberg who starred in South Africa’s ‘Sarafina’ and Denzel Washington who played Steve Biko in ‘Cry Freedom’ which was shot here in Zimbabwe. I however believe that it’s possible for Africans to tell their own stories and be competitive.
You might be tempted to ask why foreigners are used to depict a Zimbabwean or South African story if we have so much talent to do the job ourselves but the reasons are simply economic. The movie companies have to profit from the money they invest in the making of the film and marketability of a movie is also a major influence for using foreign and recognized actors. It is however possible for our local actors to grace international movies not because someone is doing them a favor but because they are good.
I remember two of our many Zimbabwean movies, Neria and More Time. Prudence Katumeni played a convincing role as a teenager in More time and so was the female lead role in Neria. They were both awarded for their outstanding performances including our legend singer, Oliver Mutukudzi for the sound track for Neria.
No player in the industry wants to be treated like a second class citizen but we need to up our game so we can be treated and paid like the international stars. Hope for upcoming film makers in Zimbabwe lies with short film projects but the problem with short films is that they go as far as festivals. We no longer have the state of the art equipment because some of the institutions previously housing some of it have either relocated and others were shut down after being mismanaged.
We can pick up the pieces and rebuild our film industry if we find the right financial support. It is not enough that we only provide suitable venues for international box office hits. We must produce our own films because if more Zimbabweans writers and actors were on Hollywood’s ‘A’ list, more producers and directors would want to travel to Zimbabwe to work with them. After all, a film is only as good as the number of people who see it.