Celebrating African narratives through film

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THIS year’s edition of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust (ZIFFT) celebrated the African input in the film industry.
Running under the theme ‘Narratives from Africa,’ the 20th edition of ZIFFT had interesting film forums lined up.
Zimbabwe Heritage Trust’s CEO Cde Pritchard Zhou delivered a hard-hitting presentation.
Aptly titled ‘The Interface between Film-making and Heritage’, the presentation highlighted reasons behind the failure of the African film industry and the lack of an African perspective in local films.
Cde Zhou said Africans were failing to tell the African story as a result of their inferiority complex.
“The major reason Africa lags behind is that of inferiority complex. We suffer from inferiority complex because we were subjected to propaganda that says we occupy the lowest position on the ladder of races.
“We need to make a real effort to correct that mentality and film will be one of the best media of correcting the problem, of removing inferiority complex from our heads,” he said.
He said film has been used since colonial times to date as a tool to control the mind of the blackman.
Film-makers, born and bred in Africa, are producing films that denounce or demonise their culture as well as their kith and kin while celebrating the whiteman’s ‘civilisation’ and culture.
Europeans continue to enjoy the ‘priviledge’ of having their culture celebrated in African films while that of Africa continues to be belittled.
Through unfair practices of slavery and colonialism, Africans were subjected to propaganda that wiped away the civilisation of Africa which was at an advanced stage.
During colonisation, Cde Zhou said, missionaries showed films that promoted Christianity at the expense of the religion of indigenes.
This has left Africans describing their religion as dark or black magic.
According to Cde Zhou, the films produced “…justified conquest, projected Europeans as a God-chosen and superior race while on the other hand undermining African confidence in African achievements that is their religion and way of life.”
Through Western films, Africans have renounced their traditional values in favour of Christian or Western values.
“We have a very low opinion of ourselves. This is a problem that came not because Africans chose it, but it was an effort from the Europeans when they introduced slavery.
“Propaganda was spread to Africans, making them believe they occupy the lowest position among humans,” said Cde Zhou.
Film, Cde Zhou said, was used as an ideological tool to reshape, control and dominate the minds of Africans so that they would become compliant to colonial economic and social interests.
In colonial films, Africans were depicted as perpetual children and irresponsible human beings who have to be kept on a leash.
Examples of colonial films such as Tiki, Themba Comes to Town and Mutaka Finds a Wife were used for entertainment purposes while their main agenda was to depict backwardness, helplessness and poverty among Africans.
Decades after such films were shown, it is sad to note that some blacks who watched those films still admire protagonist Tiki’s loyalty to the whiteman.
The agenda of Europeans did not end with slavery and colonialism.
Through film characters like Sylvester Stallone in his Rambo series and Chuck Noris’s Missing In Action, the white male is portrayed as the saviour of the world.
In these infamous films, other races are stereotyped either as drug peddlers, thieves, housemaids or, just like in Tiki, as waiters.
“In places such as Zimbabwe, we have films that are designed to alienate us from those beliefs that form part of our culture. For example, if one watches Neria, it is a very good film but you will not fail to interpret the emphasis of the focus of the film on dissuading people from focusing on the practice of ‘kugara nhaka.’ The focus of Neria is to make sure we abandon the practice,” said Cde Zhou.
Cde Zhou also gave another example of a local film, Flame, which portrays freedom fighters as nothing but rapists.
“An event that is so critical such as the liberation struggle, we paint it in those terms! A lot of things might have happened but are they the aspects which we must solely highlight in our films. We benefitted more from the liberation struggle (sic).”
Film-makers were challenged to produce more films that tell their history, celebrate their culture and spread African narratives to the world .
According to Cde Zhou, this is possible through appreciating our identity.
Zimbabwe Heritage Trust are producers of two popular documentary films ZANLA Comes to Town and The Battle of Mavhonde that have been awarded best documentary accolades in the previous edition of ZIFFT.

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