Zimbos making it big in SA film industry

by vincent gono | Sunday, Feb 1, 2015 | 2155 views

WHILE there hasn’t been much happening in the country’s film industry owing to lack of support by the Government and low returns in terms of remuneration for those in the industry, the fact remains that the country has some of the best creative brains on the continent.

The lack of vibrancy in the local film industry has seen a lot of households opting for digital satellite television (DStv) that enable them to see a variety of films and programmes from a wide range of stations albeit for a fee.

This, however, is not to say the country has no talent. What is lacking are the necessary resources and support that will breathe life into the country’s film industry.

Given the financial support there is no doubt that the country can be a giant in the film industry.

The lack of support has therefore, impacted negatively on the entire film industry where those with the talent have sought better deals outside the country and their productions have not been a yawn.

South Africa remains the biggest beneficiary of Zimbabwe’s creative brains while those with the means and who have managed to establish themselves in the industry long enough like Arnold Tongai Chirisa have signed better deals with American film companies.

Some have gone on to establish their own companies in South Africa where they say there are more opportunities to grow in the industry than back home.

Sunday Leisure (SL) spoke to Sydney Wachimwa (SW), a Zimbabwean film director, writer, editor and producer who is now based in Johannesburg, South Africa where he is running a company Sydwatch Media. He writes, directs and produces movies and documentaries together with Diane Deadol who is the co-director of the company.

Deadol is an author who is currently writing a book from one of their concepts — Fearless in Mzansi which is basically based on interviews about life experiences she had done with people from different parts of Africa that are resident in South Africa.

She is also compiling a documentary about the story of baNambya people with the help of Nambya custodians.

She said they were in talks with Mzansi Magic to sell their new film Kwejani which they did in Nambya and English.

The company has so far produced a Nambya movie Shetani, and they are currently working on the following productions — a soapie Foreigners, an action movie Kwejani, a health educational movie Nsimbi, a TV documentary drama Fearless in Mzansi and a documentary The Story of BaNambya as well as some South African music videos.

Excerpts of the interview with Wachimwa are below.

SL: Who is Sydney Wachimwa?

SW: Sydney Wachimwa is a 36-year-old film director, writer, producer and editor. I was born in Victoria Falls and grew up in Hwange. I am the third in a family of five children but two passed on.

SL: When did you start involving yourself with the arts?

SW: I started at an early age. Back in the days when boys used to paste pictures of soccer stars on their books, I was pasting pictures of actors and television stars. I remember at some point my friends and I were giving ourselves names of stars from the A-Team cast (a television series), Magnum and many others. I will say I developed interest in the arts a long time ago.

SL: Did you attend any film or arts schools?

SW: I started by shooting wedding and corporate functions pictures. That is where I got a feel of editing and camera and that was in Victoria Falls. I then went to Bulawayo where I worked with Cont Mhlanga at Amakhosi. He is the one who realised my potential and he linked me to further my studies under the Steve Reeve Foundation. Steve Reeve was a US actor.

I am still furthering my studies in film down here with the University of South Africa (Unisa) and Afda. It was really more from my earlier passion in the arts.

SL: Why did you choose to work in South Africa as opposed to Zimbabwe?

SW: South Africa has more resources compared to Zimbabwe. There is more support financially in South Africa than in Zimbabwe. But that is dependent on the nature of the project that you will be working on. In short there are more opportunities to grow here than they are back home.

Here most of the movies are funded by South Africa Film Association and in Zimbabwe they are not. It’s a dog eat dog situation and it’s bad for the growth of the industry. In fact there is no film industry to talk of in Zimbabwe.

SL: In terms of talent, how do you compare the two countries?

SW: There is more talent in Zim than there is this side. But exposure is limited in Zim. The advantage of being in South Africa is that there are more platforms for a production to be watched, there are more TV stations. I am directing actors such as Leroy Gopal, Luthuli Dlamini, Lebani Nkomazana, Treenah Ndhlovu, Penelope Chuma and many more.

SL: What influences the productions that you have done so far?

SW: Most of our productions are drawn from our day-to-day life, things that happen around us, things that we do to survive. I would say I don’t want to divorce our productions from our daily lives. I want to mirror the lives of people and things around us through the films and productions as well as inform and entertain the public.

SL: Who is your role model in the film industry?

SW: I got much of my inspiration from Denzel Washington (an American actor). He has always been my role model. He does deliver the goods when expected to do so.

SL: What role did Cont play in shaping your career and where do you place him in the country’s arts industry?

SW: Cont as I indicated earlier on discovered the talent in me. He played a very important role. He helped me to become a focused hard-worker. He used to give me projects with a very short window period and would tell me that he was making me stronger by doing that. I really idolise him as the arts godfather in Zim. Sarah Mpofu (Tashi) was also there to assist and give encouragement when the going got tough.

SL: Which theatre productions did you participate in at Amakhosi before moving to South Africa?

SW: Jazz Festival is what I participated in. I was working for Directory Publishers, not Amakhosi. Cont was a good friend of mine and mentor. Most of my involvement with Amakhosi was when I was doing graphics for them.

SL: Are there any chances of you coming to do a production in the country?

SW: Yes, Zimbabwe has much nicer places to work from. There is a lot more I want to do in Zimbabwe than this side, especially in places such as Vic Falls, Hwange and Bulawayo.

SL: When will that be?

SW: Mid year. I have three more productions to do in South Africa, then in Zimbabwe after that. But the documentary will be done before that in Zimbabwe, between times of shooting other movies.

Deadol said there is cut-throat competition in the South African film industry, something she said comes with creatives that are current and very informed. She added that there are plenty of opportunities for film making and big broadcasters like SABC and Multi-Choice that are always looking for winning content.

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