Veteran actress and filmmaker Marian Kunonga continues to put Zimbabwe on the African map as the film she produced with Malawian cast was voted among top 10 MSN films for 2013. The film titled: The Last Fishing Boat, was shot in Malawi. The film is a motion picture presentation of cultural clashes between traditional African values considered outmoded and modernisation. “The Last Fishing Boat is on MSN top 10 African Movies for 2013; now that is something to be proud of as we enter 2014,” she said ecstatically.
Kunonga, who is the film’s production manager, also took to her Facebook page to announce the new film, and posted her pictures on set in Mpemba Village, Malawi. “The Zimbabwean première is happening soon. Watch this space for dates and venues. “The film has collected awards and is currently doing the festival circuit,” she posted. The film is one of the many films by Kunonga who is currently an editing and production design lecturer at the Zimbabwe Film and TV School of Southern Africa. She also produces, directs and edits documentaries, narratives and music videos. She has won numerous awards for acting during her career spanning over a decade.
Kunonga trained at AFDA film school in South Africa, majoring in directing and editing. “I have collected awards for my short films. My main focus is to tell and show positive images about Africans. I have worked in Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Kunonga has also co-ordinated projects for BBC, Belgian TV, Danish TV and Chinese TV amongst others. She has produced music videos for Oliver Mutukudzi, Victor Kunonga, Pax Afro, Nonsikelelo, Tanga Wekwa Sando, Tia, Major Playaz, Decibe,l Trompies, Oskido, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Ellena Kupusa,Sibongile Khumalo, Lucius Banda, Peter Mawanga, Dan Lufani, The Third, David Chifunyise, Willom Tight and Major Playaz.
The Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa (ZIFTESSA) is not producing ‘graduates’ that are hoping to be absorbed in the job market but those that will create employment opportunities for existing filmmakers.
ZIFTESSA director, Dr Rino Zhuwarara, told The Zimbabwe Mail that they were equipping their students with adequate skills ahead of June 2015 target of digitalised broadcasting services.
“We are simply producing skilled people who will create employment in the film sector. We are guided by 2015 digitalisation of broadcasting services where we will have more players. That means we need to train more producers, scriptwriters, cinematographers and editors,” said Zhuwarara.
The veteran academic said Zimbabwe lacked training facilities for filmmakers hence the establishment of the institution.
“Most local filmmakers are either self-trained or trained abroad. People like Tsitsi Dangarembga , Nakai Matema, Nocks Chatiza and so forth, were trained abroad,” he said.
He pointed out that some ZIFTESSA graduates had produced their own films, hence creating employment in the process. He cited an example of the movie, Two Villages Apart, which was premiered recently. ZIFTESSA offers two-and-half year-long diplomas and the team of lecturers includes veteran filmmakers like Marian Kunonga and Nocks Chatiza.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo, recently revealed that digitalisation of broadcast services would be achieved by June 2015 in line with requirements of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
In light of that announcement, ZIFTESSA has stepped up its training of filmmakers programme since ZBC would not be the only player on the market, come 2015.
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.