Jonathan Mbiriyamveka Entertainment Reporter
It appears 2013 was a year of revival for Zimbabwean cinema as filmmakers produced a number of low budget films as funding continues to haunt the industry. Another point of concern was that piracy continued to pauperise filmmakers just like in other art forms like music.Local film industry used to be vibrant and an envy of other Southern African countries before the turn of the millennium, but then it hasn’t been rosy for Zimbabwean filmmakers.
However, the highlight for the film industry include the return of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, which is essentially the bedrock of film-making in the country.
Previously, the festival ran for 10 days, but this year it scaled down to just four days and in Harare only excluding its traditional venues such as Norton, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo.
Nigel Munyati was at pains explaining the downsizing and attributed it to low financial constraints. He, however, applauded the return of ZIFF, which is arguably the biggest film festival in Zimbabwe. The festival was shelved for the past two years only to return this year.
The festival ran under the theme: “A retrospective: Looking Back Through the Independent Eyes”
“We are basically looking back at film-making in Zimbabwe since 1980. We have had a lot of highs in the industry. We used to have our own mini-city along Kirkman Road where big international productions such as 1987’s ‘Cry Freedom’ and 1986’s ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ were shot” Munyati said.
While there were no new films screened at the festival Munyati was confident that in terms of impact, the festival had revived the once vibrant creative industry.
According to Munyati, international film stars in the likes of Denzel Washington, Nicolas Cage and Morgan Freeman found fame after shooting movies in Zimbabwe, showing the extent to which the industry had grown.
Also gracing the festival was popular South African television and film actor Vusi Kunene who stars in the soap “Isidingo”. According to Kunene, the Zimbabwean film industry was similar to the South African in that there was no funding from Government. He said most Governments were still to appreciate the role of film-making as a tool for development.
Kunene, however, applauded the efforts made by Zimbabwean filmmakers in so far as producing quality films.
There were also four German filmmakers who conducted workshops and worked with upcoming Zimbabwean filmmakers in producing four short films.
Last but not least, the festival ended with an awards ceremony that saw Oliver Mtukudzi, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and the late great Godwin Mawuru and Walter Muparutsa receiving the coveted Safirio Madzikatire Awards for Distinguished contribution to film.
To date, the late Safirio Madzikatire remains one of the best actors ever to emerge from Zimbabwe.
No doubt, it was a great year for Ziya Cultural Arts the producers of the popular Sabhuku Vharazipi comedy.
Sabhuku Vharazipi enjoyed a wave of popularity thanks to piracy, but that did not translate into any meaningful gains as the cast and crew wallowed in poverty. It was a case of fame without fortune.
The production company released their sequel this year to critical acclaim and a got a shot in the arm from Zimpapers after it donated US$10 000 for the production of DVDs.
There was also other new films such as “Mabhodhi” and singer Alick Macheso made his debut in the comedy called “Bag Rabvaruka” Season 3. Marina Kunonga also featured in a film called “Last Fishing Boat”.
Celebrated filmmaker Godwin Mawuru sadly passed on after a short illness. Mawuru began his career in theatre in the early 1980s and was exposed to acting, directing and working backstage before joining the film industry in 1986.
He worked on several local and international films and in 1987 he produced and directed his first production entitled “The Tree is Mine” which was followed by a production entitled “Facilitation Techniques in Training” and the most watched Zimbabwe’s first soapie Studio 263.
His major breakthrough came in 1993, when he produced one of Zimbabwe’s most successful and well known movies, “Neria” after which he then spent six months in the national film board of Canada in Montreal.