…Njangu to premiere new film ‘Cook Off’ next week
WITH many script writers and filmmakers sprouting in Zimbabwe from the country’s various universities that are now offering Film and Theatre Degrees, it is expected that we would be having a lucrative film industry by now, but on the contrary a lot of potential blockbusters have over the year’s been swept under the carpet due to financial bankruptcy by most local film producers.
MultiChoice Zimbabwe yesterday (Thursday) in a press release announced that it will be hosting its first ever Zimbabwean local Content Summits slated for Harare and Bulawayo early December, a move which has been hailed by local filmmakers.
MultiChoice Zimbabwe publicity and public relations manager Liz Dziva said the Content Summits would help ensure that local film and television producers get a chance to have their work showcased on various broadcast platforms.
She added that the aim of the workshops would be to attract high levels of top-quality productions from Zimbabwe for broadcast on DStv channels. The workshops will include skills training and information sessions from various industry experts.
“Topics that will be covered include scripting and screenwriting, editing, directing, cinematography, set design and costume plus many other aspects that go into a high quality production. This workshop is known as the local content summit and will be hosted by MultiChoice Africa with the aim of encouraging local producers to create films and television programmes that are of a high standard, with the potential to attract viewers not just from Zimbabwe, but across the continent,” said Dziva.
Dziva said there are a number of platforms under the DStv umbrella that can be utilised by local film-makers and producers for continental and international broadcast of their work, most notably the Zambezi Magic channel, which was created to provide a platform for Zimbabwean and other Southern African local producers to tell their stories.
One of the biggest hurdles for local producers is funding for production. In Hollywood whilst production of blockbuster movies costs millions, most production budgets in Zimbabwe are cut to cost a few thousands of dollars, which nonetheless is difficult to put together for most film producers.
Dziva said although their DStv channels are at the moment not in a position to provide exclusive funding for production, they are however currently paying producers for use of their content.
“During the Content Summits the visiting speakers at the workshops will highlight their expectations in terms of content, quality, relevance and creativity in the films and programmes being sought. Producers and film-makers from across Zimbabwe are being encouraged to put their names and credentials forward for consideration for attendance at the workshops and can email firstname.lastname@example.org requesting to be on the invitation list,” she said.
Mutare based filmmaker Amanda Ranganawa, the director of “All She Wants” which premiered early this year at Golden Peacock Villa Hotel in Mutare said the workshop will be a great platform to teach local producers on what exactly is needed by MultiChoice in terms of their required quality on film production.
Amanda who holds an Honours degree in Theatre from the University of Zimbabwe said so far the $150 per episode paid by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for a series film was too little and chocking the growth of the industry.
To promote their acting talents, Amanda and her sister Tanaka who is also completing her film studies at Midlands State University have a YouTube channel called the Ranganawa Sisters where they post their work. She however said an international broadcaster like MultiChoice would be a game changer for their work to reach out to a wider international audience and make money at the same time from selling their content.
“I really hope I will be part of the workshop since it is going to be held in Harare and Bulawayo only it might be difficult to get invited. My vision is to grow in the film industry from my home city in Mutare and not be forced to relocate. So far we shot “All She Wants” in Mutare with local actors giving the limelight to local talent,” said Amanda.
She said at the moment she is unfortunately being forced to just write scripts and sell them because producing movies is too expensive. Amanda recently wrote a script ‘Kushata Kwemoyo’ that she would have loved to produce herself but cannot afford at the moment.
“We need to have more broadcasters that will fund production. Most prefer to pay for content at low-cost rates which literally bankrupts producers and force us to make low budget movies that compromise quality. This has been the case for most of the Zimbabwean films produced. It’s not that we do not have the talent but it’s the low production budgets that hinder us from making international blockbuster movies like in South Africa,” said Amanda.
Award winning filmmaker Joe Njangu the co-founder of the film production company Thinking Films with the United Kingdom based filmmaker Agnieszka Piotrowska said he will be part of the workshops and commended the move by MultiChoice.
“I will definitely attend and see what comes out of it as it looks like it will be different from other engagements we have had with them in the past that have been critiqued to have not really benefited local producers in Zimbabwe regardless of Zambezi Magic being there to cater for us. A relationship between Zimbabwe filmmakers and MultiChoice is needed beyond doubt because they are an international broadcaster. So I’m very hopeful about this Content Summit because we need broadcasters to buy our content and make money for us to make more films,” said Njangu.
Njangu said the timing was right as they have just completed shooting a feature film called ‘Cook Off’ which will premiere next week and hopefully they can get MultiChoice to buy it. Njagu who is a writer and director set off his film-making career with ‘Bitter Pill’ in 2006 which became the first Zimbabwean film to be shown on Africa Magic MNet.
In 2010, together with fellow producer Rufaro Kaseke produced ‘Lobola’ which became the first ever high definition (HD) movie to be shot in Zimbabwe. The movie starred Munyaradzi Chidzonga who rose to fame in 2008, with his appearance on the reality TV show Big Brother Africa representing Zimbabwe in its third season, in which he achieved third place. In 2010, when the movie was shot Munya had again participated in the fifth season of Big Brother Africa, becoming a runner-up losing to Nigeria’s Uti Nwachukwu, in a finale that caused public outcry and was considered a controversial finale.
However, Munya was welcomed home by President Robert Mugabe to a surprise token of $300 000 cash and became a household name countrywide. When Lobola was premiered, according to Njangu the movie also became the first ever commercial success movie to come out of the country selling over 100 000 copies in three months of release.
The following year, Njangu wrote and directed ‘The Gentleman’ a film that again starred Chidzonga and South African movie star Presley Chweneyagae. The movie opened doors for him and saw him receiving his first international honour at the 2011 American International Film Festival held in Los Angeles for Best director for a Feature Film. Up-to-date film-making remains his passion.