Nkosilesisa Ncube, Sunday Life Reporter
Local film maker and animator Mhle Nzima has described his National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) nomination as a huge step in the evolution of animation as a film niche in Zimbabwe.
Nzima who was nominated for his animated short film, All We Need, said the nomination was humbling and it meant that people were starting to see animation as more than just a form of child’s play.
“The nomination is a humbling recognition that my film stands out among the rest as something of note especially as an underdog in the category. Animation is generally considered by most as children’s entertainment, however, it is so much more than that because in cases such as this one it carries universal and cross-generational messages and entertainment value for adults as well. It serves as a bridge of communication across the generations and seeing an animated film nominated like this is a sign that there is potential in the genre,” Nzima said.
All We Need explores different facets of life, particularly focusing on two troubled teenagers separated from one another by guardians who do not understand them. The two must adapt to survive in a world that is constantly trying to force them to be what they are not.
The film is delivered in the form of poetry which Nzima believes is the best medium to communicate raw emotion.
“The decision to tell the narrative through poetic verse was because poetry is an emotion. This story is about communicating that emotion — that hurt and loneliness, the longing and heartache which simple dialogue cannot capture,” he said, adding that part of what makes the film stand out was the work of his voice over artiste Elliot Moyo.
“This poetic monologue was delivered by the lead character Muzi, who was voiced by Elliot Moyo. Despite it being an animated film, casting still plays a very important part. Maybe even more so than in live action film because in animation, the voice of a totally separate body has to reflect the character you draw. That’s not easy to achieve. One misstep and it messes up the entire dynamic of the character. It has to compliment the mood and tone of the scene and I was lucky enough to be friends with both the perfect voice match for the character in Elliot and the perfect musicians for the score in the Eclectic pop band and My production team. With all these elements combined with my animated visuals, the film came together into a tear-jerking masterpiece which left everyone impressed, even garnering a Nama nomination,” Nzima said.
Drawn from his personal experiences and general misunderstanding from the people around him, Nzima came up with All We Need in a bid to unpack where exactly misunderstood children lose touch. Nzima’s film therefore becomes a way of bridging the communication gap between the older and younger generations.
“These two children, like most children today are misunderstood. They just want acceptance and understanding but instead have things dictated to them with no room for compromise. That’s when there’s a communication breakdown,” he said.
Nzima is the co-founder of Rebel Film Productions, a multimedia studio which uses visual entertainment as a tool to tackle social injustice. He is a self-taught 2D digital animator, director, and producer whose multiple award winning films got him commissioned to conceptualise and animate the official mascot for the 2014 African Union Sports Commission Region 5 Under 20 Youth Games “Jumbo the elephant”.
He has been part of big projects like the 2015 stage play Voices In my Head and is working on upcoming film projects, The Lost Letter and Elliot Moyo’s My Brother’s Keeper which will be released later this year.