Zimbabwe lacks policies that create robust ecosystems in film

Danai Gurira

DESPITE boasting of having churned out internationally acclaimed Hollywood stars such as Danai Gurira, Tongai Arnold Chirisa and Regé-Jean Page, among others, the Zimbabwean film scene is yet to create a viable industry, film director Solomon Maramba has said.

Gurira starred in Black Panther (2018), as Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superhero film and most recently appeared in the Black Panther sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). Few days back, the Marvel star got her own spinoff series titled Okoye.

Gurira also appeared in the ambitious closing chapters of MCU Phase 3: Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

Former Studio 263 actor who played the character of Detective Trevor Davies, Tongayi Arnold Chirisa was of late added to the list of actors and voice actors in the Transformers: Rise of the Beasts movie, The voice of Cheetor who is a Transformer and the youngest member of the Maximals in the Beast Wars universe.

Chirisa played Hekule on Leon Schuster’s Mr Bones Two, he also starred in Mayfair Witches, Sleepy Hollow and The Guest Book, among other Hollywood films.

Although the nation produces such outstanding film stars, it has not managed to establish a viable movie industry that can at least compete with other African counties such as Zambia, South-Africa and Nigeria.

Maramba, who is the Zimbabwe International Film Festival director (ZIFF), said macro factors such as infrastructure, ecosystem and size of market that feeds off the industry contribute in making recognisable movie stars.

“Movie stars such as Danai and Tongai began their drive towards a career in film in Zimbabwe and continued their education and found opportunities that all contributed to their journey to becoming very successful,” he said.

He added that the Zimbabwean film sector was on a journey to put in place the infrastructure and nurture the ecosystems that contribute to success as the ecosystem that develops around a structured film industry can generate billions of dollars in revenue for business.

“The ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation along with the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe [NACZ] have brought stakeholders together to work on drafting a National Film Policy which would be a framework that would allow an ecosystem around the production of film to work effectively,” Maramba said.

“The film sector is poised to take flight as there is so much content being generated which is being funded by Zimbabweans.

“For years, film makers made a living from producing developmental work, films that are funded by organisations for the purpose of pushing a social or medical cause such as HIV or GBV.

“There is work that is being produced now that is for entertainment and educational purposes and financed from different sources.”

Zimbabwean film producer and director Rumbi Katedza said not having robust ecosystems in film was not an issue of just regulation, but of strong policy as there is need for strong policies that encourage investments.

“Zimbabweans broad are doing very well both in front of and behind the camera. The industries in which they work are vibrant and have far more opportunities, with robust ecosystems in film, television and commercial work,” she said.

“That is not the case here in Zimbabwe, here the whole value chain needs to grow from development to production to distribution and the problem  is not just of regulation, but of strong policy - we need policies that encourage investment in the film sector.”

She added that there is a need for a robust TV landscape where broadcasters pay industry standard rates for quality local content that can be appreciated beyond the nation’s borders, as well as enabling an environment that promotes freedom of expression and creativity.

NACZ communications and marketing manager Rodney Ruwende said they have begun the film strategy process which will provide growth and investment in the sector.

In NACZ’s survey of the film operating environment, Ruwende said they found out that some of the challenges facing the sector are lack of funding, formal structure, investment as well as inadequate training.

“The film strategy is part of our process that began in 2021 with the creation of the music strategy, These sector strategies are designed to be developmental roadmaps to achieve professionalism, digitisation and industrialisation in these sectors,” Ruwende said.

“The film strategy official process started last year in May with stakeholders Indaba and the process is ongoing with various stages having been already undertaken. We expect the process to be completed in August.

“The film strategy process thus ultimately aims to create a strategy that will provide for growth and investment in the sector to contribute meaningfully to the economy through employment and attracting foreign direct investment,” said Ruwende.

Maramba encouraged film stakeholders, corporates as well as individuals to  recognise the value proposition film has.

“There are already corporations who see the value in film and are partnering with film makers and film festivals such as ours to position themselves strategically. The players in the film sector recognise the value proposition film has and are beginning to engage as partners in business,” he said.

“Those who can see the possible value they can derive from film should probably begin to understand where in the value chain they would like to make money and begin to engage film makers and institutions that are involved in film to understand what is possible.”

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