Zimbabwe: Local Film Industry in Limbo

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Harare — From Ramsey Noah to Desmond Elliot, Ifeanyi Azodo to Genevieve Njaji, Mercy Johnson to Rita Dominic, Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde to Patience Ozwokor, these are some of Nigerian actors and actresses that have captured the interest of Zimbabwean audiences.

A good number of Zimbabweans who enjoy watching Nigerian films not only fell in love with the actors and actresses, but also learnt how to speak English with an accent.

It is all the more enjoyable when they speak the words like sister, brother, abomination and other cliches.

While the Nigerian film industry, popularly known as Nollywood, has taken the entire continent by storm, the same cannot be said about our local industry.

In contrast, Nollywood produces scores of films per month and yet in Zimbabwe it takes a full year for a film to be made.

For long, the Zimbabwean film industry has been in limbo with filmmakers crying over lack of funding from either Government or donors.

However, in Nollywood they have found an easy way to make films on a low budget scheme but without compromising the basics of filmmaking.

For instance, most of the films that are being made in Nollywood are shot on location in Nigeria with at least one or two cameras.

While Nigerians enjoy telling their own stories, the films have also appealed to wider audiences as people from different cultures easily relate to the stories.

Often Nollywood has thrived on numbers and volumes, something that makes it easier to produce and market the films across its population.

Although piracy is a threat in Nigeria, filmmakers have come up with creative ways of countering the menace; for instance, making affordable films on DVDs.

Zimbabwe International Film Festival director Nakai Matema acknowledged the vibrancy of Nollywood but said Zimbabwe's small population could not sustain the local film industry.

"Ours is a different scenario from Nigeria because filmmakers are able to make profit from the sale of films to a huge population.

"In Zimbabwe, the population is small and not many people actually go and buy the DVD. In fact, it is almost impossible for filmmakers to earn a living from filmmaking.

"Yes, we have seen films being produced, but those people do not rely on films alone, they do other things," she said.

Referring to last year, Matema said most filmmakers opted to shoot documentaries, adverts and other non-governmental films to sustain themselves.

"Basically, the industry was in limbo last year because it was all about survival. Filmmakers focused on how they could fend for their families and, as such, very few films were produced.

"The only person who succeeded in shooting a film was Tsitsi Dangarembga who came up with 'Nyami Nyami'," Matema said.

However, she singled out Tafara Gondo as another filmmaker who despite producing films on a weekly basis lacked the marketing strategy for his films.

"What he needed was a creative mind to market and distribute his films otherwise everything was going on for him," she said.

According to Matema, there were many brilliant storytellers in Zimbabwe but what was of concern was the sound.

"It appears we have good stories and scripts but somehow local filmmakers seems to put a lot of effort in scripts and acting, but they give lip service to sound.

"How are people going to watch and enjoy the film when they cannot hear what the story is about?" she said.

Another issue she raised was that other filmmakers had opted to go for television rather than cinema.

"When Studio 263 was launched on ZBC-TV, everything was perfect, but the standards began to fall with time. The same happened to other soaps that followed.

"Maybe it is because the soaps start off with experienced people but when those people leave, it is affected in every way," she said.

allAfrica.com: Zimbabwe: Local Film Industry in Limbo
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