Busie Mtshede in South Africa Sunday Leisure Correspondent
AWARD-WINNING Zimbabwean writer and filmmaker Rumbi Katedza who has lived in the USA, Japan, Italy, Canada and the UK has urged the country to value the film industry and the arts in general in line with the spirit of the country’s economic blueprint, Zim Asset of creating employment through arts. She said the arts industry was not much appreciated in the country although it had great potential to create employment as well as boost the tourism sector.
Katedza has worked as a radio presenter/producer on the popular former Zimbabwean station, Radio 3. Her articles have been featured in numerous magazines including Vertigo, AV Specialist and Hype!, and her fiction writing has been published in Women Writing Zimbabwe, the BTA/Anglo-Platinum Winners Collection and Illuminations.
Over the years, she has worked in production management on several film and video productions with companies from around the world. She was distribution manager at Media for Development Trust, responsible for a catalogue of over 200 films and, later, she became director of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, before going out on her own as a producer and director of narrative and documentary content through her company, Mai Jai Films.
In addition to co-producing and line producing projects, Mai Jai Films also runs Postcards from Zimbabwe, a children’s audio-visual and life-skills training project, and ZimbabweFilm.com, a comprehensive Zimbabwean film promotion website. Katedza has directed a number of music videos for some of Zimbabwe’s top artistes. Her film credits include Danai (2002) for which she was nominated Best Director at the National Arts Merit Awards, and the award-winning films Asylum (2007), Tariro (2008) and Big House, Small House (2009). Her full length feature film Playing Warriors was released in 2011.
Sunday Leisure caught up with the Zimbabwean award-winning writer and film maker Katedza at the ongoing Durban International Film Festival in Durban and managed to steal a few moments with the bubbly film maker who has made a name for herself in the film industry.
Below are excerpts of the interview Sunday Leisure’s Busie Mtshede (BM) did with the renowned filmmaker Rumbi Katedza (RK).
BM: I have been following your work over the past few months because of my interest in the film industry and it is such a pleasure to finally meet you in person. Can you please tell me more about your involvement in the Durban Film Festival?
RK: I sit in the People to People advising board and I love what I am doing because it’s who I am. Since 2007 the conference has aimed to offer the African documentary community a dedicated platform to discuss film politics and craft from their own position and in their own terms. This aim has been spread across the continent, a generation full of revolutionary potential is coming of age, making its voice heard and demanding a different future. Inspired by this energy and the genres’ unique ability to inspire dialogue and provoke social change, People to People 2015 was dedicated to exploring the political potential of documentaries within a contemporary global context. While documentaries as a revolutionary cinema have a long history in Africa and elsewhere, political documentaries are being reinvented. Film is rising up and celebrating this moment of change and possibility, but also asking some big questions.
BM: Interesting, so tell me more about documentaries.
RK: I was on the People to People documentary panel doing the decolonising practice and the art of persuasion. This year for the first time I had the privilege of working with a fellow Zimbabwean, Portia Mudavanhu who for the first time featured in the People to People. I have had a relationship with People to People for a very long time now and it has been a fruitful and useful one. I am so happy to have someone from Zimbabwe joining us this year as we speak the same language and share the same passion of seeing film grow in our very own country. I wish we could come out in numbers and be a part of this big festival so as to benefit our country and attract funding as well. Documentaries have a realistic budget and also have a great and effective way of capturing stories. They tell a different side of story, there is a lot more than what meets the eye and documentaries can be used to capture all these moments. However, Zimbabwe lacks funding.
BM: Please share your experiences of the Durban International Film Festival, what can you tell us?
RK: I enjoy coming to the Durban International Film Festival as I use this as a platform to meet different film makers who are like-minded people who encourage me to work hard on my film productions. I value the life lessons that I have tapped from this festival as it is one of the big four festivals around the world. The creative industry is not appreciated in our country, yet it can benefit us a lot economically. Culture and economy should work together to boost the country. Film can create employment as a lot of people are needed for film production. Such festivals can help create awareness, tourism and promotion of our own culture that will dovetail into economic revival. There are a lot of opportunities that I have explored while here and I wish I could implement them back home. Zimbabwe is a small film hub and needs to grow and I want to challenge the Government to buy into supporting the arts and cultural sector through supporting us on the anti-piracy campaign.
BM: Ok on the anti-piracy campaign, what do you think has to be done?
RK: Zimbabweans need to stop piracy and I am appealing to the Government to put in measures that ensure piracy is stamped out as it is killing the distribution of the films we have. Korea and Japan have managed to put an end to piracy and I think we can do it too. We need protection from the Government and they should help us and put serious measures to ensure that piracy ends as it is killing the artistic spirit. As film makers in Zimbabwe we still need to find bigger broadcasters as we currently have only one and so distribution is still far from where we want it to be and so we cannot permit piracy.
BM: Your film Playing with Warriors did rounds throughout the world reaching New York and it was dubbed — Zimbabwe’s sex and the city — how did that work out?
RK: That went well hey, actually it was an honour to be appreciated and I loved the way people received it. It did rounds hey, it was on Fepasco which is one of the biggest film festivals in the world and I really appreciated the way people related to it. I feel it benefited my country too as people talked about it. One of the lead actors Kudzai Sevenzo went on to win awards after the film was appreciated and received by many, I feel we were at the peak at that time. I am currently working on another production and as soon as we have funding we will be in the studio working on it.
BM: Word of advice to aspiring filmmakers like me?
RK: I want to encourage all those interested in making films to be firm in the industry as they need to be passionate and for them to succeed they need to respect the craft and think outside the box. I feel we have to step away from traditional ways of making films so as to breed a new and fresh film production in Zimbabwe.
BM: Thank you so much for your time and wish you all the best.