By Farayi Mungoshi
A COMMONLY asked question regarding productions in the local film industry is: “How come madrama ekare ainakidza kupfuura eikozvino?” (How come the old television dramas are more exciting than those produced today?)
It’s not really a hard question to answer but a lot of things come into play when confronted with such a question, the urge to defend self and peers arguing that we are indeed doing a great job, better than the older generation comes to the fore. In fact, just last year alone, we had over 20 films produced in Zimbabwe.
It is indeed true that we had so many films produced, but sadly, most of us have not watched these films because film distribution and marketing is a department that has been neglected by local film-makers.
It is common knowledge that film and television have been captured and used to push Western ideologies and culture.
And the West has been successful in this agenda.
Film-makers of old had a closer tie with their roots; the good dramas talked about were more about resisting Western machinations.
We all remember dramas that scorned children who came back home from universities in Europe pretending they could no longer speak their mother tongues.
These were dramas that questioned behaviours that threatened hunhu/ubuntu.
Film and drama were then not about aping Western ways.
It seems nowadays film-makers are determined to produce Hollywood-like productions, lots of guns, sex, violence and foul language.
But Hollywood and its ideals does not begin to address who we are as Africans.
A celebration of Western freedoms does not paint the picture of an African.
Africa has its story which remains mostly untold and by being fixated with the Hollywood ideal of film, we lose it as Africans.
A typical example of a nation that has made it in film-making is Nigeria.
Nollywood has largely told the Nigerian story and people can easily relate to the productions.
Whether we like it or not, most of us (Zimbabweans) now know what ‘chineke’ means, a word found in almost every Nigerian production.
Their influence has spread like a veld fire. Despite some of the productions being of low standard what is gripping is the storyline.
We are all captivated by stories about witches and pastors, the evil aunt or uncle who wants to dupe his brother’s orphans of their inheritance.
With a billion plus people in Africa, there is a potential market here and lots of money to be made. Netflix have seen that.
Hence it should not come as a surprise that Genevieve Nnaji recently passed the one billion naira mark to become the first Nollywood billionaire when Netflix paid her US$3,8 million to distribute her latest film, Lionheart.
This film is Genevieve’s first as a director.
Whether it’s a good film or not, it really does not matter, the bottom line is that Netflix bought into a name they know is marketable in Africa and to most Africans living in Europe and America (not forgetting the generations born there who still practice African culture).
Will Netflix get its returns?
Genevieve was already a household name before Netflix came along. She is well known for doing Nigerian movies and there are people who will watch the film just because she is behind it.
What is critical to note here is that Genevieve is being recognised for being Nigerian and not some version of a Western actress or film-maker.
“How come maDrama ekare ainakidza kupfuura eikozvino?”
Maybe because the majority of the stories we are telling are not our own stories.
Most dramas, especially those produced by television drama veteran Ramious Musasa, were adaptations reflecting our society then but today we are such a mixed bag of cultures, foreign cultures, from the West.