Film industry under scrutiny

The 14th edition of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF), held under the theme “Finding Common Ground” sought to explore how filmmakers from the African continent can network to improve standards in the film industry.

Zimbabwe’s film industry came under heavy scrutiny as local players in the sector highlighted challenges which they said were working against progress.

At a workshop held with stakeholders at the Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa, it came to light that although Zimbabwe has the talent, the industry is in a dilemma, a situation which has seen most players in the film sector realising too little from their hard efforts, struggling to make a living.

Stakeholders highlighted the sector has been on a life support for too long, relying heavily on donor funding and the situation has affected production of films as filmmakers would be forced to dance to the tune of their funders. Zimbabwean filmmaker, Joe Janga said the situation has relegated local filmmakers to “a basket case”.

He said, “The reality in Zimbabwe is that films that mostly come out are commissioned ones.

“NGOs have been controlling the process and it has even impacted on the message to be conveyed to the audiences.

“We need to stop being basket case filmmakers whereby donors would come out and tell us what movies to produce.”

He implored local filmmakers to commercialise and make sellable films that relate directly to their audiences.
The acting executive director of ZIFF, Charity Maruta concurred with Janga’s sentiments and highlighted Zimbabwe’s film sector was far from achieving the desired goal of creating a vibrant industry.

The issue of financial resources, she said, had seen the standards in some local productions falling, a trend she said led to few Zimbabwean films being shown at this year’s edition of ZIFF.

This year seven films from Zimbabwe were shown at ZIFF.
“Our standard is that we try to show the best of the best. Here (in Zimbabwe), talent is there but we are not quite there yet. We need money and expertise,” she said.

The welfare of actors also took centre stage with the majority saying there was no industry to talk about as far as Zimbabwean film is concerned.

This, they attributed to a host of factors such as lack of an effective representative body, bogus persons masquaerading as filmmakers yet milking resources for nothing as well as lack of a well-defined film policy.

Chairperson of the Film Makers Guild of Zimbabwe (FMGoZ), Noxes Chatiza said stakeholders should make concerted effort to ensure the film sector graduates into an industry that can sustain itself.

He said fund raising was one of the major challenges facing filmmakers in the country hence his associaton will work towards this.

“We are also making efforts to help the film sector with fundraising by getting into partnerships with government and the corporate sector,” he said.

Stuart Sakarombe, who also starred in the new television series The Team-Zimbabwe, said some people were moving around masquerading as filmmakers and after getting funds, would never channel resources towards the development of the film sector.

This, he said, calls for the formation of a strong union of actors to protect their working rights in order that they are able to realise something from their efforts.

Another local actor who declined to be named said he was ashamed of his status in society.

“Whenever we walk in the streets some people would even laugh and say ‘is this the person we see on television?’.

It’s a disgrace that we are seen in some circles as celebrities and yet we have nothing to show for it. We are struggling, that is the truth,” he said.

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