Zim’s film cream can’t resist SA lure

Itai Mushekwe 


THE continued downfall of Zimbabwe’s film industry has come as a blessing in disguise for South Africa, which has managed to lure local top-notch actors, producers and directors, Independent Xtra has established.

Film experts an

d actors who have crossed the Limpopo are, among others, Michael Auret, the acting chief executive officer and consultant of the Southern African International Film and Television Market Initiative (Sithengi), gifted directors Dan Jawitz and Sunu Gonera.

Producers Joel Phiri and Tendekai Matatu are also now in South Africa together with actors such as Yellow Card star Leroy Gopal and Kudakwashe Maradzika who stars in Zimbabwe’s latest feature film, Tanyaradzwa. Award-winning actor Arnold Chirisa has also crossed the border.

Zimbabwe two decades ago stood as the premier filming destination in the region, then boasting the now defunct Central Film Laboratories which was the only facility in sub-Saharan Africa used for film processing and mastering.

Today’s it’s a different story for Zimbabwe due to the socio-economic problems bedeviling the country, while the lure of the rand in the competitive South African film market is irresistible. Foreign film investors have also shunned Zimbabwe because of its political crisis.

It has taken South Africa 12 years since independence in 1994 to produce an Oscar award-winning film, Tsotsi. But Zimbabwean film productions remain on the fringes in 26 years of self-rule.

Zimbabwe’s Auret scored a first by becoming head of Sithengi, an influential South African film company, in 2001. Sithengi organises the reputable Cape Town World Cinema Festival, which is one of the continent’s biggest film events.

Producer Phiri, on the other hand, has grown to become one of Africa’s leading film entrepreneurs. Together with a colleague, Phiri has set up a successful film company, Digital 8 (DV8), in South Africa.

DV8 is the first digital feature project of its kind in South Africa, with an all-encompassing finance, production, local and international broadcast, theatric release and ancillary distribution and marketing model.

It is poised to become the epitome of the growth and development of the South African feature film industry.
Another local expert, Gonera, is now one of South Africa’s leading film directors and has successfully managed to direct Hollywood films.

Actor Gopal features regularly on the South African soap BackStage, while Chirisa and Maradzika are enrolled at film schools. Maradzika is pursuing a degree in dramatic performing arts at the University of Cape Town.

Nakai Matema, the Short Film Project (SFP) director and one of the few former South Africa-based filmmakers to return home, told Independent Xtra that Zimbabwe, although it has adequate technology, faces a Herculean task in setting up proper film training institutions in the country.

“The major challenge facing the industry is inadequate training,” said Matema. “And by training I’m not referring to simply teaching an individual how to insert a tape into the camera and how to press buttons. Anyone can do that.

We need proficient trainers who can identify and nurture people who understand the language of film.”

Matema has made a fair effort as SFP director to market Zimbabwean film products through short films, which are cost-effective and are increasingly becoming popular at the numerous film festivals such as the New York African Film Festival in the US and the Milan African Film Festival in Italy.

Filmmakers earlier this year petitioned government to come up with a film policy that will provide for the establishment of a film commission tasked with the mandate to lure foreign investors, the setting up of relevant structures and soliciting funding to enable sustainable growth and development of the industry.