Tafadzwa Zimoyo Acting Entertainment Editor
In 2011 Malaika Mushandu was crowned Miss Zimbabwe.
Fast forward to this year — after trading her catwalk skills to camera handling — last Saturday she was voted Best Film Director and her film “Mirage” scooped Best Feature Film at the just-ended Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF).
Somehow, it seems the organisers of the festival saw it fit to close the event with the much awaited film,
“Mirage”, which saw a huge turnout of fans, celebrities, producers, actors, writers and directors, among others.
The United States has the “Prison Break” series and now Zimbabwe basks in the glory of the “Mirage” film which is more or the same concept, but localised.
What makes “Mirage” unique is the powerful cast members just like popular Hollywood blockbuster, “The Expendables” which had actors such as Slyvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts among others.
“Mirage” has seasoned and renowned actors such as Prudence Katomeni Mbofana, Chipo Bizure, Charmaine Mujeri, Eunice Tava, Joylene Mangena, Taurai Kawara, King Her, Doc Vikela, Rumbi Takawira, Kenny Kondo and Stewart Sakarombe.
With such powerful names, it was going to be a wasted talent and resources if Mushandu did injustice by not giving them roles that suited them.
She did well on that front.
It was no doubt that the adjudicators at this year’s (ZIFF) had no horrid time in coming up with the winner.
Fair and balanced.
Don’t forget that the film was led by a female cast.
Of course, this is Mushandu’s first feature film and just like the runway she had to make sure it will leave a lasting impression and an authoritative entrance in the film sector.
Think of yesteryear local hit films such as “More Time”, “Everyone’s Child”, “Neria” and “Yellow Card”, it was obvious that Mushandu did her homework well, perfected it as she rekindled the love and romance with these yesteryear cast.
And this time around, in the film sector, after the Covid-19 pandemic subsised, we have something that we can be proud to submit even for the Oscars, Berlin Festival and the much loved Netflix production.
Directed by the former model, written by Virginia Jekanyika and produced by Joe Njagu, apart from the midas touch by the actors and producers, the film, which premiered at the festival had everyone talking, congratulating, ululating and above all overwhelming responses from local relative arts bodies and authorities.
As they always say, the key ingredients that make a film “good” are when the acting, directing, writing, cinematography, and overall production value all come together to tell one cohesive, entertaining and impactful story.
In this case, Mushandu, who is a trained film professional, a graduate from the prestigious AFDA School Of Motion Picture Medium And Live Performance in South Africa, captured and mastered it all.
Watching “Mirage”, one is not disappointed, but remains glued to the screen as the plot, attraction, theme, acting, dialogue, cinematography, editing and effects, sound and music are excellent.
Speaking on the sidelines of the festival, Mushandu, who is now equally comfortable in front of the camera, said she fell in love with the script.
She said the feature film was inspired by true events.
“The film is much of the female cast, girl power,” said Mushandu. “Mirage” actually came from a female background trying to narrate our own story without the male dominating.”
She said they shot the movie in 21 days and at different locations.
“Although centred much on the prison, we also wanted to promote tourism, hence it was also shot in some of the areas like Nyanga, local hotels and Harare,” she said.
Mushandu said they have already submitted the film for Netflix and were waiting for approval.
“Definitely, after the ZIFF, plans are underway to put the film in our local cinemas for everyone to see,” she said. “We have also submitted the film for Netflix and keep fingers crossed, hopefully our prayers will be answered.”
Mushandu said her main reason for getting into the film industry was to help shape the story telling narrative from an African perspective.
She has not only shown girl power in “Mirage”, but fights corruption, poverty, child and sexual abuse, among other societal ills.
The plot centres on three women who while serving a five-year sentence at one of Zimbabwe’s tightest prisons just outside Harare, Tambu learns of the abuse of her daughter by her own brother back home.
Fuelled by the passionate anger of a single mother, Tambu convinces fellow inmates Memo and Zoe to escape together with her.
The plan hangs on a thin thread, as rumours of the escape surface, fueling an ongoing power struggle between one of the officers and the prison warden.
Tambu seizes the moment during a prison ceremony by a popular pastor, and the changes in the Zimbabwean Government in 2017 to embark on a thrilling and dangerous prison break.