Lord of Kush: Ignorance no defence

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By Farayi Mungoshi

WITH a star-studded cast of Nothando Nobengula, Steven Chigorimbo, Lazarus Boora ‘Gringo’, Albert Nyathi, Tinopona Katsande including South African Actress Thandile Sotomela and Zambian actress Nancy Handabile, the table seems set for an explosive film to set the  industry glued.

The film being, Tendai Maduwa’s much talked about, Lord of Kush, of course.

I say much talked about because, for months, Maduwa and his team had been working very hard to make sure they defy the odds and have a sold out premiere on July 27. 

Indeed, the producer’s dream came true as the film sold out almost a month prior to its premiere date. 

I still hadn’t gotten myself a ticket when the news broke out that the film was sold out.

I didn’t beat myself about it as I was confident I was going to find my way in somehow, despite the 500 plus guests to grace the occasion. 

And, sure enough, four days before the premiere, I managed to get a ticket and Maduwa was kind enough to even allow at least three people in on that ticket.

However, at the premier many were left wondering what was going on after Maduwa, Daves Guzha, Peter Churu and Kuda Bwititi were taken in by police for questioning. 

As is the norm nowadays, whenever the police are involved in any arrest that people do not fully understand, many take to social media and all sorts of comments and finger pointing is done, without ‘full’ information. 

The huge question in this case was, was there politically motivated reason behind the arrest.

As questions and assumptions kept pouring in, with many people wanting to know why the four had been taken in, eventually we got wind that the film had not gone through the Censorship Board, hence the police were acting according to the laws of the land. 

But that did not deter some film-makers from assuming something was amiss.

Surprisingly, a lot of film-makers, apparently, are not aware that a film has to go through the Censorship Board before screening.

Other film-makers might have, in the past, screened their films without approval of the Board but, unfortunately, Maduwa managed to create hype for his production to the extent that everyone in the country knew about it.

Should Maduwa be blamed for this? 

Was he aware? 

Were the others he was working with also aware of the impending dangers of premiering a film that has not yet been cleared by the Censorship Board? 

While it might be water under the bridge to be asking such questions now, it, however, leaves us better informed for the future, so that all of us follow the proper channels to avoid backlashes from the authorities and the law.

The court hearing, held on Monday, July 29 would reveal that the film’s religious theme would/could invoke conflicts among religious groups, particularly between Christians and Muslims since the film is centred around the 2014 Taliban killings of at least 141 people, the majority (132) being children, in Pakistan. 

The assumption after the Court hearing has left, or rather led, most film-makers and followers to conclude that the Pakistani Embassy was not happy with the film being premiered. 

Lord of Kush is internationally appealing. 

It talks about Rashid (The Lord of Kush) who kidnaps Nontokozo, the Zimbabwe Ambassador to Pakistan’s only child and massacres thousands of children in retaliation for Patrice’s brash actions of trying to impose Christianity on Muslim children. 

Patrice is mother to the Ambassador.

It is a story that one can consider personal for the director as he has travelled to Pakistan before and saw the need to tell the story (that is what we do as story-tellers; look for stories to tell) and obviously he made some friends while there who are dear to him, hence meant no harm by making this ‘fictitious’ film even though it was inspired by true events. 

A great lesson to be drawn from this debacle, especially to young and aspiring film-makers, is that there is an institution called the Censorship Board through which our works/films are assessed to see if they are suitable for public consumption or not. 

After having watched so many American films in which the Americans scold the Japanese, Russians, Chinese and whoever they feel like, including Zimbabwe which has had its fair share of being ridiculed in American/Western films and television (Being Mary Jane and Strike Back just to mention a couple, one is left scratching his head wondering why we are being so hard on ourselves when Western film-makers seem to get away with it. 

This is, after all, fiction or are we, as film-makers, supposed to fictionalise names and places as well when doing our films so that we don’t run into trouble with the Censorship Board?

Indeed, there is more to the story, especially the need to educate our film-makers on such issues. 

To begin with, whose fault is it that today’s film-makers are/were not aware of this part of the law? 

Or did they overlook it? 

Or isn’t the Censorship Board supposed to take it upon themselves to educate film-makers on these issues as it is clear the landscape has changed in the last 10 years.

A film-maker (whose name I shall withhold) made a valid point during the discussion over why the producers of Lord of Kush had been dragged to the police station. 

He said that when he visited the Censorship Board about a year or so ago, to get a clearance certificate for his film, the Board had been dissolved. 

However, whether or when the board will become operational again is for the producer to find out before premiering a film.

Ignorance is no defence at law.

Let us follow the proper procedures and not cry foul when we flout clearly laid out laws.

The law should be upheld at all times and we should take our works through the necessary steps otherwise, without rule of law, the country will go to the dogs.

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