Developing project ideas – Song for Zimbabwe


Photo by Stella V. Chinamo

Song for Zimbabwe is a documentary film that explores the extraordinary stories of ordinary Zimbabwean women living and working in Newport, Wales. These women belong to the Batanai Bambanani Women’s Network Wales. They also call themselves ‘Queens of Africa in Wales’. According to the Sibonie Gumbo, the founder of the women’s group, the network helps to keep us together, and to provides a platform to showcase our cultural heritage in a foreign land we never dreamed we could be part of.”

 These Zimbabwean women are all working mothers, who are proud to be a permanent fixture of how Wales defines itself today in the global context – an all-embracing Wales for Africa. The city of Newport is going through an extensive process of change and regeneration – the diverse migrant communities in Newport are part of the change as well as Newport’s new identity – multicultural. Batanai Bambanani Women’s Network has a visible presence in Newport, especially through their unique and spectacular performances of gospel music and traditional Zimbabwean song and dance routines – always a delight cherished by audiences.

Their singing and drumming in the heart of Wales is a strong sign that times have changed. The women have reinvented themselves, rebuilt their lives against all odds and faraway from the political reign of terror in Zimbabwe. The audiences in the Welsh Valleys have also been exposed to a taste of Africa. As the women sing and drum, with beaming smiles and the graceful movements of their bodies, one can sense the strong feelings that the women still have for their culture and country. But Newport is their “new home because most of us are not able to go home, and haven’t been home for more than ten years” says Sibone. But the women have not lost all hope to see their homeland again as they sing and dance for a better Zimbabwe.


Photo by Stellah V. Chinamo

 As the women become more popular and confident, they are planning to record their first ever CD album. The CD, says Sibone, “will help us to enhance our personal feelings as Zimbabwean women and makes us proud to display our true Zimbabwean culture and way of life.”  The women are also planning to celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence Day in “style” – an important goal they have been working towards for a long time.

 Song for Zimbabwe will be a journey through the lives and times of these Zimbabwean proud mothers. In particular, the film will unravel rare insights and a window into the experiences of a small section of African migrant women in Wales.

Brief notes on how I plan to structure the film:

The film’s narrative structure will revolve around two main activities that all the women are involved in – the rehearsals and recording of their first ever CD album, and the celebration of their Independence Day in 2011.

 This narrative framework of the film will be inter-cut with chapters of the women’s personal lives, similar to films like Buena Vista Social Club and Reservoir Dogs. The film will have major and minor characters depending on how involved they are in relation to the preparations of 2 main events and the group’s other activities; the character fragments will provide brief biographical information through interviews and conversations with friends and family – We will get to know about the social context of the women, such as family life, past, character traits, occupation, aspirations and so on.  It is in these contexts that we will address questions and issues such as, why the women came to Wales; how they have integrated in Newport; will also see and hear about how their presence ‘here’ helps to define multi-cultural Wales.

 Throughout the film we will follow individual women outside their involvement with the two (2) events; it is in these sequences and images that we will encounter them in their daily lives. The images of their every-day lives will be juxtaposed with images where they are preparing for the Independence Day celebrations, or rehearsing for the recording of their album. In this way, the women reveal different identities, talents, experiences and emotions in the different contexts.  These will not only show their passion for song and dance as well as making music, but will also give the audience rare insights into the multi-dimensional, dynamic, resilient and complex personalities of these migrant mothers. This contrast will furnish the role and metaphorical significance that gospel music and traditional African music have for these women in this time and place.


Photo by Stellah V. Chinamo

Brief notes on how I intent to approach the film:

 I am attempting to adopt an approach or style that allows the audience to see and hear directly from these women as individuals. Through the use of interviews, the women will have a voice in the film and be able to speak for themselves – telling their personal stories from their own perspectives. In this way, the film will provide another way of seeing and looking at African women – from their own perspective, and within the wider context of agendas and stories that are defined very much by the need for personal expressions.

The film will use a variety of visual styles to portray the women’s lives and activities. We will interweave actuality footage, interviews, with archival material such as photos. For the most part, the film will be mainly actuality driven in a Cinema Verité style in the sequences building up to the Independence Day celebrations, and the recording of their album – we will follow events as they happen in an observational and personal style. These sequences will be intercut with interviews where the women tell their stories of aspirations and so on.

There will be no commentary/voice over; if this were used, it would be to give information, not interpretation.

The film will have alternating moments of fast paced sequences inter-cut with slower sequences, so there is a rhythm to the film. In most cases, the landscape of Newport and the women are to be in close harmony; this will allow the audience to see the women in the context of the landscape and environment of Newport; to achieve this, a wide-angle lens will be used, with very limited or no soft focus backgrounds.

Throughout the film, there will be gospel and traditional music by the women; this will help to punctuate the emotions at key moments.

 The format: HD . The length: 40 minutes

More information later…

Florence Ayisi