Senior Arts Reporter
Unheralded filmmaker, producer and actress Zoe Ramushu is basking in glory after her two productions “To The Plate” and “It Takes A Circus” were nominated for international prestigious awards.
Zoe produced “To The Plate” and co-directed and produced “It Takes A Circus” together with directors Gopika Ajan and Annick Laurent.
“To The Plate” was short-listed for a Student BAFTA, while “It Takes A Circus” is vying for the 48th Student Academy Awards (Oscars).
The talented filmmaker and producer who is based in South Africa will be the first Zimbabwean to be selected for this honour and if she wins, she becomes the first local to grab such awards.
In an interview with The Herald Arts, Zoe said it was a great honour to have her works nominated for Oscars and BAFTAs.
“I am just excited,” she said. “Both the Student Oscars and BAFTA’s are massive career-changing platforms and I’m incredibly humbled and grateful to God for the recognition.
“Zimbabwe has a vast amount of talent and I believe when one of us makes it, it creates opportunities for us all.”
Zoe, who has featured in various commercials in South Africa featuring international brands such as KFC, Grandpa and Soul Candi, said she took a break from acting to focus on producing and directing.
“I remember some time back I accompanied a friend to a casting in university,” she said.
“The casting director asked if I was auditioning and I said no, but she insisted that if I was interested in acting, I should try my hand at auditioning.
“I then said yes, she stopped the auditions and took me to her office to sign me up. That’s how I got my first role. In 2017, I then took a break from acting to focus on producing and directing. I restarted my acting career earlier this year by featuring in upcoming South Africa film, ‘Bohlale’.
“I moved back from New York this time last year and I am currently based in Cape Town. Most film work is remote until you go into production. I have work projects currently in Johannesburg, Kwazulu-Natal and New York. I will travel there once we start shooting.”
Asked how best Zimbabwe could improve the film sector, Zoe said; “Give people opportunities and funding. Funding and platforms are the key to improving the film sector in Zimbabwe.
“I run my own production company, Chiriseri Studios, and a production company is like any other business. You need money to create the product (film or television show) and then you need a place to sell the product (broadcasters or streamers).
“We need more local channels, but also need to be engaging with international broadcasters, of which I spend a lot of my time and energy on attending markets such as Cannes, Berlinale, Durban, The Gotham in New York and others.
“I believe building these relationships abroad will cultivate an appetite for Zimbabwean talent, not just my projects.”
Zoe applauded efforts of some local filmmakers who are putting content online. “Once you have an existing audience for your film or show, it’s easier to get increased interest by putting it online.
“Because of the current situation, the best platform to market your work is through virtual platforms.”
Zoe said she gets inspiration from her parents.
“My parents are my role models. My late father Apostle Charles Chiriseri, and my mother, Apostle Petunia Chiriseri. I love their integrity in doing work.”
Zoe cited consistency from other producers as a major challenge in the film sector.
“Consistent work is always key,” she said.
“I believe creating communities can address this issue really well as there is shared information and collaboration which creates more work. I am a big believer in strategic partnerships.”
Zoe is producing a feature film with MNet and other funders, and said she was looking forward to also work in Zimbabwe.
“My first ever production I shot in Zimbabwe in 2015 I was behind the camera in this production.
“It was a reality cooking show called ‘My Perfect Date’. I’m really interested in working on another production in Zimbabwe so to all my local film family can get in touch with me.”
Zoe is a fellow of the Cannes Producers Network, The Gotham (formerly IFP) and has enjoyed success at various markets, including her series, “Pretty Hustle,” which was selected as the first and only episodic project to pitch at DFM’s Finance Forum.
She chairs the committee of South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture and is a 2021 Reuters Institute Fellow at Oxford University.
So far, her work was recognised at global platforms such as the Berlinale, Cannes, Morocco film festivals and has been featured in Glamour and Variety magazines. Zoe studied Law and English and holds an MA and MSc from Wits University and Columbia University in New York respectively.