By Farayi Mungoshi
ARE current film productions relevant to our society?
Have we run out of ideas?
I disagree with people who say content is scarce.
We have a lot of stories that have not been told, dating back hundreds of years, but we choose to ignore them.
The current dramas on national television are proof that we are not giving enough thought to content creation.
Most of our dramas mirror South African lifestyles and partially our own present day lives (which say the least of who we truly are).
What of our history?
What of dramas showing Mbuya Nehanda and her fight for land and the people, or the chronicles of the Munhumutapas (The myths and legends) just like the South Africans did with Tshaka Zulu, and the Scandanavians did with the Vikings as well as the British history of The Tudors and The Crown.
I didn’t know much about the Vatican’s machinations till I watched The Borgias and I learned that the portrait or picture of Jesus we are so fond of is a drawing of Cesare Borgia and that of Mother Mary is of his sister, both done by Learnado da Vinci, a dear friend of Cesare.
Most of these television series’ are shown on the History channel.
Zimbabwe was really not far from this vision as evidenced by the 1980s productions, most of which were adapted from books written by Zimbabwean authors.
One person I know who keeps encouraging the youths to revisit their history and tell our forefathers’ stories is Dr Rino Zhuwarara.
Upon entering his office (Dr Zhuwarara) at the Zimbabwe Film and Television School of Southern Africa (ZIFTESSA) one is greeted by a number of books with stories yet to be televised.
Another problem faced by our film-makers today is the failure to know when to call it quits for a television series that has already made its run.
They try by all means to stretch it into a second and third season simply because the audience loved the first and are pushing them to continue when the truth of the matter is that the writers have run out of ideas and have exhausted all of their storylines.
That is why many people today say the old dramas were better; they maintained the story line and structure.
Forget the advanced technology we have today — better cameras and editing suites do not make better stories – without a good story you don’t have a film to shoot.
The Munhumutapa Empire alone is a series that can span years and will definitely attract and pull major players if well done.
The information is already there, all that is needed is good adaptation skills and good scripting.
Picture a king at Great Zimbabwe in its heyday – the ruler refuses to take up a wife when asked by the people to get married. Instead he wants his people to capture the mermaid (njuzu) from the lake behind his homestead for a wife because he feels he is too good looking to marry any of the women in the land. Hence his name ‘Mudadi’ – The King who would bath several times a day in full view of his people.
What of the Munhumutapa who commands his people to build a ladder up into the skies to bring him the moon?
And what of the rainmaker Modjaji ousted by her father, Munhumutapa, and ends up a queen down south?
The Modjaji area in South Africa is still named after her to this day.
And what of the hunter (muvhimi) of that Munhumutapa era who was trained to use his sense of smell to hunt game? It is believed the hunter could sense game as far as two kilometres away just by using his nose and could tell whether it was a rabbit or deer.
These are the myths, the legends; stories of the Munhumutapa who could fly.
Our young do not know these stories and if not revealed through television and film, chances are we are going to lose yet more of our history and stories because today’s generation hardly reads novels like we used to, instead they watch movies, mostly or play video games.
I don’t see any harm in creating a Munhumutapa video game.
I hope I have given others ideas of what to write, and if they have the resources to pull it off, why not? Our country will be better off with such entertainment on television.
If the corporate world and sponsors can run with this vision, it won’t be long before we start attracting more people to visit Zimbabwe.
This is who we are but we have lost that knowledge or the fact that Munhumutapa Empire is believed to have extended as far as half the continent of Africa, all ruled from Great Zimbabwe.
Hence, when it comes to content, I believe we have it; there are such books like Inongova Njake Njake and Pfumo Reropa, among others, that point to who we are and our heritage.
Foreign film and television platforms have in the past portrayed Africa as a dark continent, full of backward people and poverty, for example; the overused image of an African child with a fly on his face, but we can change all that. But in order to do that, we need to love ourselves first and look deep within at that thing that makes us who we are.
This is the only way we can become big; by first accepting who we are and believing in our stories, the struggles Africa has gone through in the face of racism, slavery, colonisation and apartheid.
These stories are not boring if well written; they are as much informational as they are entertaining.