LUCY LUMBE, Livingstone
IN 1979, Zambian actor Edwin Manda featured in the British film “Touch of the Sun”, which is largely believed to be the first full length feature film produced in Zambia.But you may not have heard about it internationally. In other words, it is not stuff for Hollywood. You may not even see it on Zambezi Magic, where Zambian productions seem to be having a field day.
From all the many Zambians who took part in Touch of the Sun, it is only Manda who is the most recognisable name.
But there were countless other Zambian, taking on roles such as that of Patrick Shumba Mutukwa who took in a minimal role in the critically acclaimed “Black Panther.”
Ever heard of Benjamin Shawa or Friday Nyamba? Probably not, but they were part of Touch of the Sun.
But the average Zambian will probably know the names Sauzande (Danny Kanengoki), Maximo (Chanda Mwale), Graig Lungu and wife Jane. Oh and Zuba (Mwaka Mugala).
Local film aficionados will also know about Rungano Nyoni, a Zambian-Welsh director and screenwriter who has been riding the crest of the wave with the feature film “I Am Not a Witch.”
The movie has collected multiple awards on the road. The star of the movie is Maggie Mulubwa, who acts as the witch.
Ironically, Zuba (or Mwaka) is more famous than Maggie, who is the star of I Am Not a Witch. Despite the buzz around Zuba, the so-called first telenovela is yet to achieve anything. It is in contrast with I Am Not a Witch. You have to give credit to Nyoni.
Like the Deadline said: “For her feature debut, Nyoni hoped to find a story to film in her native Wales, but instead found herself in Zambia making a low-budget film that ticks all the wrong boxes for first-time filmmakers, working with multiple nationalities, animals, amateurs and children in a country with little in the way of infrastructure.”
They key word is infrastructure.
Despite the first Zambian feature film being produced in 1979, the country still lacks a sound foundation for the development of the film industry.
What is there is improvisation.
Recently, the Zambia Institute of Mass Communication Educational Trust (ZAMCOM) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with SOTAMBE Film Institute to commence training in film production throughout the country.
This agreement is aimed at bringing together media, art and culture to enhance cinematic value through film production.
ZAMCOM broadcasting manager Jeff Nalwendo, who is also spearheading the programme, says the collaboration will put up measures to find modalities of enhancing the shaping of Zambia’s unexplored film industry to an internationally acceptable level in terms of content quality.
“Our move of starting a National Film School is in response to Government’s efforts of diversifying the economy by strengthening the Zambian Film Industry to make it competitively robust and also to enable the industry create jobs,” Mr Nalwendo said in a statement.
He said Government has further made strides towards this venture by tabling before Cabinet and operationalisation of the film policy in a bid to make the film industry contribute to national development.
Mr Nalwendo says the two media and film production institutions have entered into the agreement to put in place strategic measures to stimulate growth of the film industry.
Martina Mwanza, who is one of the directors of Sotambe Film Institute, says that the programme will combine both theoretical and practical aspects of film making.
Ms Mwanza says this will ensure that there is a collaborative learning process through interactive sessions with the film industry experts, and hands-on experience throughout the course study.
The National Film School is scheduled to commence training in October with classes in Kitwe and Lusaka beginning with certificate programme in film-making.
The certificate programme in film making is a 10-month programme that will focus on aspects of film making.
Developing the film industry can help the country to enhance national development not only through the creation of jobs but also increasing the country’s economic growth.
The country has so far exhibited not only on the local level but also on the international scene that it still has talent and the potential to stimulate the growth of the film industry if given the right tools and opportunities.
And it was only recently when the national broadcaster Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) introduced and added a new department called Department of Media and Creative Services.
Mampi Musweu, who is the department controller, said during a media and creative meeting with film-makers in Livingstone that the creation of the new department will establish a base to support and complement the efforts of film-makers in the country.
Mr Musweu says ZNBC is in the process of producing a 14 drama series which will be shot in various parts of the country.
This will help showcase and sell the country’s natural resources and culture.
He says television remains a preferred media of communication hence the need for film makers to stimulate and produce quality content.
“Content quality differs, this means that there is no fixed price attached to the content that is brought to us, what speaks for you in terms of how much you get is the quality of content you produce,” Mr Musweu says.
He says the broadcaster has come up with a revenue sharing project to ensure that more film-makers invest and showcase their content with ZNBC.
Mr Musweu says the revenue sharing project is a new method of sharing and increasing content delivered to viewers in various parts of the country. Otherwise, there is money in film. Nollywood, as the Nigeria film industry is known, is worth billions of dollars.
LUCY LUMBE, Livingstone