ART YAK with CHANDA MWENYA
WHEN I watched a short documentary on the Carnival of Chinese Film and Drama that was beamed in selected parts of Zambia during the launch of the Beijing TV Drama and Movies Broadcasting Season in Africa in Lusaka on Monday, I was taken back to the days when television was a preserve of the rich.
The rest of the population watched Basikopu (Mobile Cinema) whenever it was available in their community.
Those who watched the documentaries and films in the glow of the evenings would recount the experience with the rest of the community the next day.
The storylines from the movies would filter through to the remotest part of the community. The films from Basikopu left vivid impressions on those who watched and curiosity on those who were told about them.
It is the same strong impression and curiosity that the Beijing TV Drama and Movies Broadcasting Season in Africa made during the two-week Carnival of Chinese Films and TV Dramas that toured Lusaka, Kabwe, Ndola and Kitwe.
The many residents, especially children of Lusaka’s Chawama township to the audiences in Kitwe who watched those “Chollywood” (as the Chinese Film industry is sometime referred to) movies, during the carnival, the memories of what they saw will remain part of their knowledge. It is for this reason, that film and culture are inseparable.
In fact, it can be argued that film thrives on culture and on the other hand, it can be acknowledged that film influences culture.
Chinese ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming said the increased popularity of Chinese drama and movies in Zambia is creating a new cultural bridge which is assisting in building a stronger bond between the two countries.
Now, that is a classic example of cultural diplomacy, or even soft diplomacy.
The presence of Chinese films on Top Star Television platform (the official national digital signal carrier) is sowing a faithful Zambian audience for Chinese films.
Admittedly, Chinese television series are giving the Zambian audience a vivid insight into the Chinese culture.
The influence of the film industry such as Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood has greatly aided in shaping and transforming cultures around the around.
It is said that a good film does more than entertain or just fill seats at the cinema. It has the power to change hearts and minds – and society.
As cultural diplomacy is employed to create and enhance mutual relationships between countries, the creative industry is such an environment that is providing that platform.
It is hoped that through a deliberate cultural exchange, Zambian films will be featured at future Beijing Film festivals.
Beijing alone produces some 300 films every year. That could perhaps be the number of films that Zambia has produced in the last 10 years. But make no mistake, the Zambian filmmaker is ready to tell the Zambian story, what he or she lacks is just the platform.