KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
BORN in Zimbabwe, educated in Zambia and the United States, 24-year-old Shamola Kharkar of Indian origin, like most students was torn apart on what the future would hold as she came out of International School of Lusaka (ISL) with distinction honours at the age of 16.
Today, after seven years of education at Chapman University in the United States, which is one of the top schools on the globe, she is armed with a degree in fine arts with major in film production – directing and minor in broadcast journalism, masters in business administration and masters in fine arts – film producing, she has entered the professional world of entertainment to create a niche in a very challenging industry.
In 2017, Shamola became an Emmy nominated producer when her short film “The Monkey King is in Town” was nominated in the Children’s Programming category at the Television Academy Foundation’s 38th College Television Awards.
Shamola in her school days was fascinated with the world of aviation and dreamt of becoming a commercial pilot.
However, her dreams shattered after 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. She took a lot of interest in drama and films from a very young age and with her oratory, self-confidence, storytelling skills and voracious appetite for reading, the creativity in her started to rise.
Her sharp memory allowed her to remember, recite and rehearse dialogues and songs in abundance. Her mimicry skills started mushrooming and she started getting noticed by her teachers at the school. It made her select drama as her core subject at IGCSE where she excelled with the best possible grade. These were the years when she casted her pillars for a strong foundation in the film industry.
After a few challenging months at university, she settled down quickly. In the very first year, she was awarded a life membership of the US National Society of Collegiate Scholars and later as she completed her dual masters programme honoured with a life membership of International Honour Society – Beta Gamma Sigma, accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Shamola went to Chapman with no prior experience in film production, but luckily the university was looking for creativity and determination, which are cardinal to success in the industry. The film industry can sometime be very intimidating especially for those with no background of having parents or other acquaintances, who are already well established in the industry.
This is what may sometimes makes it difficult for first timers like Shamola to enter, save for her creative mind and determination to make it.
Young Shamola is hopeful that the film industry is one that is resourceful and views it as untapped talent potential for many youths.
She says the flexibility of the film industry is such that it can be blended with any other fields such as science, culture, history and social issues.
Shamola, however, regrets that the film industry in Zambia where she grew up, is in its infancy and still requires huge investments for it to start taking shape, before its benefits could be reaped. Zambia has a lot to offer with the best of the water falls – Victoria Falls, wildlife, fern, fauna and the most important, friendly people.
“I would like to bring a few producers to Zambia to explore the country because no one has any recognition of its film potential,” she says.
The Emmy nominated producer is well-known for her films, particularly in the short film category, and has produced titles such as “I Got You Babe”, winner of the Audience Choice Best Short Film Award at the Highland Independent Park Film Festival 2017. This film has been featured at over 15 film festivals across the United States including the Rhode Island International Film Festival 2017, U.S. China Film & TV Industry Expo (UCFTI) Film Competition 2017, Action on Film International Film Festival 2017, Skyline Indie Film Fest 2017, Rahway International Film Festival 2017, Laughlin International Film Festival 2017, Ojai Film Festival 2017, Glendale International Film Festival 2017, Route 66 Film Festival 2017, Carmel International Film Festival 2017, Dam Short Film Festival 2018, Beloit International Film Festival 2018, Pasadena International Film Festival 2018, Newport Beach Film Festival 2018, and Richmond International Film & Music Festival 2018.
Another production, “Look at Me”, received recognition in 2016 from KODAK for its excellence in cinematography.
The new year holds exciting opportunities for Shamola who has already produced an independent feature film and more short films. She is also developing her startup which focuses on storytelling using virtual reality, augmented reality, 360 degree imaging, and animation. Simultaneously, she is developing a film-learning programme to encourage filmmaking amongst Zambians as well as support the country’s mandate of establishing a film industry.
“There is a lot of interest in filmmaking in the country; we already have training workshops hosted through different film festivals. If we can come together to push this creative initiative forward, we will galvanise immense potential to bring our culture and stories to screen, and make our mark on the global market.”
In the next couple of years, Shamola hopes to see herself ‘on-set’ as a fully groomed film maker. Today as a freelance producer she is working on different forms of content. Within the past few months, she has produced several music videos and short films, and simultaneously produced an independent feature film.
One would not be totally mistaken to assume that Shamola’s life revolves around film production, true as it may be, but her life would not be complete without other activities. During her free time she enjoys watching movies with a view of taking note of what she can learn from movies and television production. She hikes a lot to keep herself fit whenever she is with her friends.
From a lay man’s point of view, most people would watch movies or other telecasts to enjoy and entertain themselves but ‘technocrats’ like young Shamola are able to view all such productions with an extra eye , and be able to accredit or critique the production from a professional point of view.
She enjoys reading, a culture which many Zambian youths should learn to nurture for their personal development. The digital world has been keeping the children away from the books.
Dreams and visions like Shamola’s should be well nurtured and because all great men and women of this world who today are widely talked about as great thinkers, began with small dreams like Shamola’s.
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka