Zimbabwe: Good Year for Film, Television

24 December 2020

Lights, camera and action!

Zimbabwean film and television industry has always had potential. Who thought it would take a pandemic and a lockdown to bring out its best.

It was a year when our creative sector showed its resilience.

Barely two months after the country announced lockdown measures during which even film directors were forced to operate from home in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, popular American streaming site Netflix premiere a Zimbabwean film --"Cook Off".

It was good news for the sector as audiences rushed to watch the film on the site, though some sectors criticised the fact that we had to watch the film on Netflix yet it was running for the past three years on the local circuit.

Why wait for it to be on Netflix?

For the Zimbabwean movie to make it on to Netflix it was a blessing considering that during the lockdown most people were glued to the social media for entertainment. It attracted a wider audience.

As if this was not enough, last week telecoms mogul Strive Masiyiwa was appointed a board member by Netflix.

At least having a representative on such a prestigious board is a plus for the country, who knows maybe more Zimbabwean content will then be screened through his connections.

Not that we are pleading for favours from Masiyiwa who is best known for advocating for youths in business, but we should work hard for the slot so that we do not embarrass our representative.

It is now a heads up for local film makers and producers to start creating world-class content.

Still on the silver lining, the popular anti-poaching film "Gonarezhou" proved its mettle in Hollywood, where it came out tops in the Best First Feature Narrative category at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) held in Los Angeles.

The festival saw the première of the highly anticipated production, with screenings on 17 and 21 February during the festival which was established in 1992 for the promotion of cultural understanding among people of African descent.

Directed by Sydney Taivavashe, "Gonarezhou" was produced with assistance from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority.

Taivavashe also made the shortlist in the best director category, as he was chosen as the cream of the crop in a field that had over 250 directors from all over the African diaspora.

PAFF premièred and hosted special screenings of top black films including Black Panther (US), ThinkLike a Man (US), Vaya (South Africa/Nigeria), TheCEO (Nigeria), Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (US), Love and Basketball (US) and 93 Days (Nigeria), among others.

Then as the festive season begins, former beauty queen Malaika Mushandu announced that her debut film "Mirage" that she directed was out.

That was not only the good news, but the best was that it has been nominated for three awards at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in Lagos, Nigeria held last Sunday.

Although she did not win at the prestigious awards, Malaika proved that she has beauty and brains.

Again, there were a lot of productions which were cooked during the lockdown.

Some of them include Thandie's Diaries, Isithembu, The Village Secrets and Tunga among others which remain consistent on local television, giving competitor DStv a run for its money.

Coming up with a film production is difficult and expensive.

Dramas and reality talk-shows continued playing an important role in shaping the society.

This year also saw the birth of "Rock Bottom" talk-show by Zolile Makeleni which gave local personalities time to share their journey to success.

It was a great year indeed with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) issuing six new national television licences to new players, among them Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), Rusununguko Media(Pvt) Ltd -- trading as NRTV, Jester Media trading as 3K TV, Acacia Media Group-- trading as Kumba TV, Fairtalk Communications -- trading as Ke Yona TV -- andChannel Dzimbahwe -- trading as Channel D.

Who would not want to congratulate that?

What is left now is for content creators to roll up their sleeves and give people value for their money, otherwise they might be overtaken by social media.

On a sad note, the country lost veteran actor Lazarus "Gringo" Boora who even at the time of his death was still acting even on his death-bed as the producers still cast his role.

This year there were no awards or if the film and television and relevant authorities should come up with separate awards which recognise film makers, producers and actors.

We should also applaud these guys because it is passion that drives them as sometimes they use their own resources to come up with good production but they don't get recognition.

Thank you to those who make the television worth watching and hoping 2021 will bring better tidings for the industry.

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