The following article was a Comment in The Sunday Mail newspaper in Zimbabwe
February 4 1996. I thought it might be of interest. This was written soon
after the film was confiscated by the Government. "The Flame" will be
Zimbabwe's 4th or 5th feature film when it is released later this year.
(Opinions expressed are of the author)
The Wrong Flame
One of the biggest historical processes in Africa which
some forces in our society and elsewhere would rather have
undone and forgotten is the epic struggle waged by the people of
this region for their emancipation. Yet we must keep telling the
story as it was, because if we do not, activists other than
ourselves will tell it in line with their own value judgments,
prejudices, and psychological outlook, hostile to the interest of
the majority. There are those who have already begun this re-
writing of history in the name of "freedom of expression," in the
name of "art" and "free flow of information". They are in this
connection embarking on a campaign of distortion.
The bare facts regarding the liberation struggle in this
region in general and Zimbabwe in particular are that all the
pillaging and raping was done by the colonial regimes' security
forces and their agents. In Zimbabwe in particular it was the
Selous scouts of all races who did all the raping and mass
murders. From one corner of the country they unleashed a reign
of terror that transformed the peasants and men and women in
the streets into nomads who would not know what next would
befall them from a daily pattern of a life characterized by
extreme violence and sudden death.
As the years have gone by and because we were late in
telling our own side of the story in film, along comes someone
with the bright idea to inflame the wrong passions and tell the
wrong story about the liberation movement through a film
entitled Flame. It is a work of monumental distortion if ever
there was any but now being dubbed a work of art, by some
fundis in the film industry in the West whose themes have
played so much havoc with the minds of both the young and the
old, more so in Africa than anywhere else. Remember Tarzan!
The liberation struggle involved the entire country and its
black population. The big story is about how the poor peasants
were able to stand up to the might and terrorism of the racist
minority regime. The big story is about is about how these poor
and unarmed people were able to accept and put their faith in
the art of protracted warfare and then co-operated for years with
the freedom fighters in the face of brutal intimidation and
ruthless oppression. But now what do we have?
Quite a handful one would say. Sinclair and Bright make
Flame, a film which isolates two female combatants facing the
ordeal of being raped by their male counterparts. And this is the
story that should go throughout the world to contribute to art in
cinema and "enlighten" the public about the "realities" of the
liberation struggle in Zimbabwe.
It is said originally it was argued that there was no
money to tell the story from our point of view in film. That is
probably understandable. Then it is also said that it was argued
that telling the story from our side in film and showing all the
atrocities committed by the Smith Regime, could have harmed
the spirit of reconciliation. That reasoning does not look so
good now in the face of Flame.
It is important that as the nation gears up for the
forthcoming Presidential election, it be made clear that such
propaganda material is a work of sabotage designed to tarnish
the image of the liberation movement and its central role in the
death of Rhodesia and the birth of Zimbabwe.
There is nothing subtle about Flame. It is meant to
justify the racist belief that the freedom fighters were
just as Ian Smith continues to call them this day. At least the
man says openly what he believes. It is the nauseating
hypocrites, who proclaim in the world that they are a different
lot, yet think like him, find other ways of propagating his
message and sometimes vote with him for the same political
parties come election time - it is such elements, we say, that are
more dangerous than Smith. The story about the liberation
struggle in film should be told by us.