Firstly, let me clarify that point, there is no Zimbabwean film industry to start with. According to the dictionary, an industry is characterised as widespread activity: an activity that many people are involved in, especially one that has become commercialized or standardized. From that point above i think we have basically wrapped up why the Zimbabwean film industry or whatever we call it sucks, lets pack up bags and go home, just kidding, but really why does it suck?, i will try to answer that in detail.
I have always been in love with the motion picture ever since my mother, now late, and i waited in line to buy tickets to watch my first movie on the big screen at Kine 400 back in the day, i think i was around 10, and the movie was Home Alone. I remember the enthusiasm and joy, see, back then it was a privilege to watch movies not because they were expensive but because everybody just loved going to the movies that it was very difficult to get a ticket.
I have also had my stint on the backroads of Zimbabwean filmmaking and in my experiences, i think i can sum up why the industry sucks in a few simple points.
Yep, this remains the biggest challenge to the Zimbabwean film industry, the economy is depressed so much that nobody wants to pump money into a black hole called film. That is the myth that everyone has been made to believe, producers just talk about it on every fora but has any of them really tried to look for funding, i mean, it’s hard to look for funding when you have blood on your hands. It’s no secret that our industry is dogged by controversies about the abuse of funds, the actors and crew don’t get paid because the producer wants to buy an ex-jap with money that should be used for film, now for that very individual to go look for more funding lets just say it is futile.
NGO Money, we give a big thanks to our Non Governmental Organisations for funding the film industry since time immemorial, their participation cannot go unnoticed. NGO money has been the force behind some of Zimbabwe’s biggest movies eg Neria and Everyones child to name a few. However, it’s no secret that NGO money comes with conditions, they can turn your blockbuster script into a humanitarian documentary if you are not careful. It’s not the NGO’s fault really it is our inability to look for alternative sources of funding, hence almost all the Zimbabwean we’ve ever seen had an NGO agenda.
The Zimbabwean film industry is characterised by very huge egos, from the producers, directors, actors and actresses all the way to the grip in the crew, very huge egos. Somebody produces one programme for the ZBC, and they start thinking they are Jerry Bruckheimer, somebody directs a local drama and they start walking like they are Steven Spielberg, don’t get me started on the actors and the crew.
Nobody really takes their time to gain experience, work on their craft and really mature into someone respectable in the industry, before the film is even made they demand huge amounts of money with no talent to back it up. We should take a leaf from the nigerian film industry, some of the big names in Nollywood worked on tens of films getting paid very little until they had become household names and started demanding things.
In my view film school has been responsible for killing the Zimbabwean film industry both the lack of it and it’s availability, i will explain. I have bumped into aspiring filmmakers with very bright ideas who think that first going to film school will make them better filmmakers only to procrastinate inadfinitum. That’s a lie, you can actually become a better filmmaker by making films and learning from your mistakes.
Another group of misled individuals are the people who actually passed through film school, who do not want to shoot until they have a perfect set. They want everything to be in place the lights, the latest cameras, costumes guess what?, not going to happen, if you cannot make do with what you have, then you were not a filmmaker to begin with.
Lastly, we address the issue of piracy, this is not a new topic on this fora. Piracy has single handedly ruined the whole Zimbabwean film industry and i blame the government for allowing it to thrive to this magnitude. Big cinemas, like the Kine 400 i mentioned above have been turned to churches and every street corner has counterfeit dvd’s and cd’s being sold for a dollar, which is not going to impact the industry in any way.
Piracy, has ruined the traditional film distribution chain, if you produce a film, it is actually not that profitable to distribute it in cinemas any more, so the only option left is to go the dvd route, which sadly contains the jack sparrows of this world and the rest is history.
Those are some of the reasons why the Zimbabwean film industry sucks, but the good news is that we can do something about it. I salute the die hard filmmakers we have, who are shooting films no matter what the circumstances are like.
What do you think should be done to revive the Zimbabwean film industry?