Local film sector gasps for breath

THE local film industry appears to have waned over the last few years after what had promised to be a great start with the production of films such as Yellow Card, Neria and Everyone’s Child.

BY TAWANDA MUPASI

The television drama productions offered escapism, education and entertainment to viewers.

But the sector lost steam particularly after the economy started nose diving, as funding dropped and top notch filmmakers sought greener pastures abroad while those that remained were left gasping for breath.

The scourge of piracy and a flood of fly-by-night unprofessional filmmakers did not help matters.

Despite this grim backdrop, there are a number of things that local thespians can do to blow the industry back on track.

Filmmakers could consider that a rich production is like a picture puzzle made up of different details interwoven to create a great visual experience, including characters’ defined mannerisms, their relationship with their surroundings and the depth in the script.

In the 2012 Kenyan film, Nairobi Half Life, the director, Joseph Gitongo, went for an unpredictable, but deep and intriguing tale chronicling the character Mwas’ painful journey, as she sought to become a professional actor from the slums of his poor neighbourhood.

Although we have one or two productions that pop-up with a distinct form of storytelling, their glory is often short-lived, as they lack the X-factor that characterised yesteryear productions like Gringo, Paraffin and Sinjalo.

Another important factor in film production is research. While imagination and creativity form the base of any impressing piece, one cannot solely depend on those as they fall short in presenting accuracies in the selected storyline’s time period, setting or even the required jargon appropriate for the characters in the script.

The Zimbabwean drama series, Tiriparwendo, is set in an ancient, pre-colonial timeline, but from what happens in the story, one can easily tell the story unfolds in the iron age, as evidenced by the use of some iron tools and weapons like iron head spears. During that period, history suggests that people were already living in huts, but in the drama they are shone residing in caves and such an inaccuracy is a major fault-line.


However, a flaw of this nature can be forgiven. Even some of Hollywood’s high budget blockbusting movies like Gladiator (2000) and Apocalypto (2006) have their inaccuracies, which simply underlines the need for thorough research.

In an interview with NewsDay, Enock Chihombori, the brains behind the popular yesteryear local comedy series, Gringo urged filmmakers to desist from presenting half-baked products that lacked research.

“A story needs to be researched on. Most details need to be factual and believable. I am lucky, I normally write comedies so I get forgiven when I write not so convincing events. Rushing to produce without taking time to polish a script is one of the many mistakes one should guard against,” he said.

Filmmakers can draw lessons from the theatre sector, where scripting is rigorous and character analysis prioritised.

Theatre is a “one-take” when compared to film. This means, while an error during a film’s shooting process can be masked through numerous retakes and post production processes, in theatre once an actor occupies their space on the stage there is no clowning because any small diversion from the set arrangement can cost the entire flow of the production.

It has to be noted, too, that music is the vehicle that drives mood in any given text. It is disheartening to realise that for the past decade our local film and television industry has not produced outstanding film score composers.

One of Zimbabwe’s veteran film and theatre practitioner, Patience Tawengwa, recently alluded to this crisis, as she shared on Twitter: “No film or television show is complete without the emotional language of music. Where is our African equivalent of a James Horner, a Hans Zimmer or a Philip Glass?”

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