On Friday and Saturday last week, CUT Hotel in Chinhoyi hosted the first ever Film Festival in Mashonaland West under the theme, “Turning Ideas into Reality”.

The festival, showcasing mostly short films written, produced and directed by university students and lecturers, was well attended and provided the young generation in the small town with a unique, first-time experience.

Though the majority of the audience were Chinhoyi University of Technology students and staff, the event had a national feel to it as films from Midlands State University and other places were screened.

Some of the short films on show directly addressed contemporary issues affecting students and the general public. The two films, “One too Many” and “Atrocities” addressed the disturbing subject of unwanted pregnancies.

“One too Many” was written by Hazel Sillah and directed and produced by Chinhoyi University of Technology School of Art and Design dean, Dr Wonderful Bere.

The writer won the Best Script award for her outstanding writing. It featured a girl who must make a decision on what to do with her unplanned pregnancy.

Two second year students at Chinhoyi University of Technology, Thubelihle Khumalo and Dumisani Manyathela were rewarded for their work on “One too Many”, bagging the Outstanding Camera-work and Outstanding Editing awards respectively.

“Atrocities” on the other hand showcases a young woman that lives in a rural setting who has the misfortune of being impregnated by an irresponsible city hustler.

The pregnancy issue was especially touching to the student audience as recent reports in the media about learning institutions have placed the issue in the spotlight.

Another film shown, “Mintu”, directed by another University lecturer, Dr Batsirai Chivhanga is a docu-drama about a local student that discovers just how much members of the African-American community have contributed to technological developments over time.

The film has the potential to inspire young and aspiring visual communicators and inventors to follow the footsteps of some of the best black inventors in history.

“Marrying the Devil” also premièred at the ground-breaking event.

Written and directed by Angeline Domingo, the film starred the outstanding Eddie Sandifolo who walked away with the Best Actor award.

It delves into the mysterious world of Satanism where a young woman gets enticed by a devil-worshipping, but wealthy boyfriend. She is saved from being sacrificed because of her belief in Christianity.

A particularly gripping full-length film called “Tokwe Mukosi” was also presented to the CUT Hotel audiences.

The documentary was directed and produced by Midlands State University students and explored the repercussions of the Tokwe Mukosi flood disaster. It chronicled the history of the drought-prone Masvingo province and gave the justification for, and the perceived benefits of the construction of the much talked about dam.

The film gave a balanced account of benefits versus challenges, and it was not a surprise when it scooped the Best Documentary Award.

Other films on show included “Sores of Emmanuel”, a short film about a father of four children struggling to make ends meet. He possesses a diamond and tries desperately to sell it in the capital city.

“Letters” is a cryptic film that shows different situations depicted in moving letters that carries deadly consequences in some of the people that read them.

In “Husband”, a man foolishly provides protection to another man being chased by a plain clothed police officer.

It becomes apparent by the end of the film that the chased man had fled from a crime scene in which the good Samaritan’s wife was the victim.

Scores of other films with strong involvement of university students were also presented. This was an ideal platform for armature filmmakers to showcase their talents and most did not disappoint.

The story-lines were easy to follow and most were addressing issues that students deal with on a daily basis.

Perhaps because it was the first of many, the festival had its shortcomings.

Sound was a big problem on the first day and most within the audience could not really grasp the concepts in the films.

The problem was, however, fixed and on the second and final day, quality sound complemented the quality imagery captured by the video cameras.

Security could have been beefed up particularly on the final night as rowdy youths were part of the otherwise appreciative crowd. The second edition of the festival expected next year will no doubt be an improvement.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Francis T Mugabe, Chinhoyi University of Technology Vice Chancellor Professor David J Simbi hailed Chinhoyi as a place where talent is nurtured, recognised and unleashed to the rest of the world.

He said the festival ,“Can go beyond a film festival that showcases films. It will be a platform to promote those films for commercial gain. Thus, this festival can be a place where filmmakers drawn from various academic institutions and independent production companies can share their work with the public. Hopefully, this platform will bring attention to the worth of the films screened while also seeking to distribute them through various media platforms”

I couldn’t agree more.

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