The Filmmakers’ Guild of Zimbabwe recently grabbed a rare opportunity to market Zimbabwean films abroad when it attracted the interest of international television channels which are interested in buying Zimbabwean films for broadcast.
In responsible to this, the Guild has embarked on a project of compiling trailers of Zimbabwean films.
The film trailer will be distributed to film buyers at international television channels that are expected to visit Zimbabwe during the Zimbabwe International Film Festival and the Zimbabwe Filmmakers Indaba in October.
The main aim of the project is to put together a short documentary of trailers of Zimbabwean films produced since April 18 1980. Producers of such films are expected, in the early part of September, to submit film trailers and contact details to the organisers.
That will enable film buyers at the identified international television channels to communicate directly with them in order to negotiate sale and exhibition rights of their films.
Buyers of films at international television channels prefer to have detailed information about producers or production houses and their films before they travel to film markets to negotiate television rights and other film distribution arrangements. Initiatives to promote local film abroad began in early 80s during the Front Line Film Festival which later became the Southern African Film Festival and which Zimbabwe hosted for several years.
SAFF enabled many Zimbabwean filmmakers to establish links with the Pan African Film Festival in Burkina Faso as well as getting elected to the pan -African film body.
It is through this festival in Burkina Faso that many Zimbabwean filmmakers were introduced to film funding organisations abroad as well as meeting prominent film producers for co-production arrangements.
At that time, Zimbabwe was considered not only a very suitable and viable venue for the filming of feature films but it also had facilities such as the Central Film Laboratories and Production Services
which were considered basic but appropriate infrastructure for film production. Major cities of Zimbabwe were, at that time, well provided with film exhibition facilities in both high- and low-density suburbs and the town centre. What was clearly seen as a major challenge then was the absence of film distributors and agencies that were amicable to the distribution of African films in general and Zimbabwean films in particular.
Somehow at that time and even much later, it was not easy for Zimbabwean filmmakers to enter into any viable exhibition deals with the national television – an aspect that was considered by many as a result of the absence of a clear national film policy. Some film producers were told that it was cheaper for the national television to procure first class Hollywood films than procuring local films.
In fact, the argument that the local film industry cannot become viable if it is not promoted adequately by local media and exhibited regularly on national television seems to have remained inadequately appreciated by those concerned.
The Filmmakers’ Guild of Zimbabwe has, in fact, produced a long list of Zimbabwean films produced since 1980, which it hopes to promote. The Guild hopes that producers of the films on the list it has published will come forward and make use of this opportunity to participate in the production of a trailer of Zimbabwean films. Among Zimbabwean films on the initial list of the Guild made in 1980 are “I Can Hear Zimbabwe Calling” and “Shamwari”. In 1982 only one film, “The Assegai”, was produced. This was followed by “Consequences” in 1987 and “Music of the Spirits” in 1989. The most productive period of the Zimbabwean film industry was between 1990 and 2000 which saw the production of “Jit”(1990), “I am the Future”(1993), “Neria”(1993), “Flame”(1996), “Everyone’s Child”(1996), “More Time”, “Jazz Tales”(1997) and “Still Life” (1999).
Although in the period from 2000 to 2010 Zimbabwe faced many serious socio-political and economic challenges which drastically affected the entire arts and culture sector, the film sector continued to demonstrate the commitment and resilience of Zimbabwean artistes by producing the following films: “Ngoma Buntibe, Music of the Village Tonga”(2000); “Yellow Card” (2000); “The Zimbabwean Marimba of Alport Mhlanga” (2000); “Taka”; “Home Sweet Home” (2001); “That’s Me” (2001); “Riches” (2001), “The Legend of the Sky Kingdom” (2003); “Always Take The Weather with You” (2004);
“Kare Kare Zvako: Mother’s Day” (2005); “Devil in Our Midst”; ” Tanyaradzwa” (2005) ” Bitter Pill” (2006); “Sores of Emmanuel” (2010) and “Lobola”(2010).
In the tentative list of the Guild are also short films produced in the period between 2001 and 2009 as part of the film development and practical film skills training projects of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival. The Guild is quite conscious of the fact that there are short films made in Zimbabwe which have not been entered into local film festivals or which the Guild has not recorded for one reason or another but which should be included in this film promotion project.
It is also evident from the Guild’s tentative list that there are many Zimbabwean films produced in the early 80s and 90s which many Zimbabweans have not seen in their cinemas and on national television.
Equally significant is that most of these films have not been availed commercially either because producers have not been able to adopt strategies of ensuring that the films are so priced that film lovers will not be tempted to hunt for pirated copies.