THE Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa (ZIFTESSA) says local film makers must uphold cultural values in their productions to protect the country from Western cultural imperialism. Due to uni-directional flow of information between the North and the South, most African countries including Zimbabwe are under the threat of cultural imperialism driven by Western productions that have flooded the local market. Speaking at a graduation ceremony last week ZIFTESSA Managing Director, Dr Rino Zhuwarara said film was critical in shaping the identity of the country.
“The film sector is very critical in the creation of shared culture and in the process we create image about ourselves,” said Dr Zhuwarara. “More importantly the film sector creates a sense of identity and belonging.” Most local film producers are aping Hollywood, a situation that has resulted in the erosion of local cultural values. Dr Zhuwarara said it was vital to learn style and technique from other traditional film industry, but not substitute local norms and values for foreign ones. “All film makers have to pass through an imitation stage,” he said. “We should learn from other film making traditions in terms of style and technique, but at the end of the day we need our own content in relation to our own cultural context.
“Everything that we import must relate to our norms and values and the whole local environment.” Dr Zhuwarara said many story ideas and themes that promoted the country’s identity remained unexplored. “There are so many stories and messages to tell that are being ignored by local film makers,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before foreigners come and utilise them at our expense. “There is the whole liberation struggle and stories from oral tradition that have been barely produced in the film industry but have great potential.”
Due to poor funding of the film industry in Africa, funders are taking advantage of the situation to influence content of local films imposing their ideologies. For instance, the theme of homosexuality which is anathema to Africans is being given prominence in ‘African’ productions as a result of funders of the projects. Dr Zhuwarara said film makers must partner donors that suit the context of local films and not those that will make them divert African issues. He said there was need for the country to craft policies that will help to grow the local film industry.
“We have to think differently in the way we create our own films not imitating other models that require a lot of money,” he said. “We have to create our own film industry to help promote viability in the sector and make sure that all the films we produce represent our own interests not of the donors. “There is now a serious concern about how to promote the film industry. “We need to craft policies that help to develop the industry.” Some film experts have criticised the use of English language as a tool for cultural imperialism as it hides a lot of Western values and beliefs.
Dr Zhuwarara said it was imperative for film makers to produce films in vernacular languages so that they appeal to a wide audience. “The ambition of our school is to empower our students to produce films in our own languages,” he said. “With language, are encoded value systems that determine our humanity. “In foreign languages there are embedded values and contents that might not relate to our own existence.” ZIFTESSA, said Dr Zhuwarara, would work hard in decolonising the minds of film makers from alien views that undermine the country’s identity.
“The ultimate purpose of ZIFTESSA is to mould our film makers and viewers towards an understanding of their own philosophy of life and how to do things suitable to our circumstances and future,” he said. Meanwhile, 48 students from the school were conferred with National Diplomas in Film-making and Television Production at a colourful graduation ceremony. The students took courses in editing, production, directing, cinematography and sound. ZIFTESSA was founded in 2008 with a vision to foster development in film-making and television productions.