/* Written 4:07 PM Oct 4, 1996 by newsdesk in igc:africa.news */
/* ---------- "IPS: CINEMA-ZIMBABWE: The New Story" ---------- */
Copyright 1996 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Used Here with Permission
*** 01-Oct-96 ***
Title: CINEMA-ZIMBABWE: The New Story Tellers
By Bella Matambanadzo
HARARE, Sep (IPS) - To make sure women's names sit next to tags
like director, producer, editor, and script writer when credits
roll up the screen at the end of films, Zimbabwe's women
filmmakers have formed a union.
The Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe (ZWF) association resulted
from discussions held by 20 women who participated in the Sep. 20-
26 Southern African Film Festival (SAFF) here. It plans to train
women in various aspects of film production, says its chair,
freelance filmmaker Petronilla Munongoro.
The organisation's deputy chair is Joyce Makwenda, whose
documentary 'Township Music' won special mention at the 1993 SAFF.
''When I did my documentary I was not trained,'' recalls
Makwenda, ''I just did it because it was something I wanted to do
and I had a story to tell. African women have always been story
tellers. My grandmother was a great story teller and I am telling
stories in a modern way through film.''
Through fundraising, ZWF will seek to make sure there is a pot
of money set aside for women to make pictures. The union also
wants to help its members market and distribute their movies.
The need is there, according to Pan African Film and T.V.
Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) film selection librarian
Ardiouma Soma. ''There are not many films shot by women in
Africa,'' he said. ''We do not have enough. Many women work in
cinema but not many shoot films or make feature films.''
Other members of the new association include Tsitsi
Dangarembga, director of 'Everyone's Child', a feature film which
won the 'Best Screen Play', 'Best Cinematography' and 'Best
Soundtrack' awards at this year's SAFF, and Kubi Chaza Indi, who
produced another film shown at the festival, 'I am the Future'.
They are among the rare female producers and directors in
Zimbabwe. Not that the situation is much different in the rest of
Africa. There are few women decision-makers in the continent's
film world and this has an effect on the portrayal of women.
''All the time we see African women as victims, maybe of a man
or sex objects,'' says Ghanaian actress Alexandra Akoto Duah, West
Africa representative of the Dakar-based Pan African Union of
Women Film Makers (UFAPI). ''We want films where we see women not
just victims or sex objects but facing their problems, overcoming
difficulties and getting out.''
''So far stories about women have been told by men, by male
directors,'' says Kenyan Anne Mungai, the UFAPI east Africa
representative, ''if we get involved in script writing, production
and management then we as women can tell our own stories, stories
women want to see too, from our own perspectives.''
''The notion that the film industry is a man's world is wrong.
Men and women need to be partners,'' she adds. ''In talking, male
directors respect us, say we are their mothers but we are never
given strong, positive images we can play as role models for
Makwenda adds that film also needs to grow into a career option
for African women: ''As ZWF we will go to schools and talk about
film as a career for women to our girls. They must not get
intimidated. We need to educate and prepare them to come into the
industry to know that it is something that belongs to them.''
Duah feels such a move is welcome. ''To have African women not
just working as make-up artists but as trained camera operators,
proficient film editors, directors, to now come in is
encouraging,'' she notes.
ZWF will be affiliated to UFAPI, which will allow its members
to, ''attend seminars, participate at international workshops and
film festivals'', explains Josephine Jenje-Mudimbu, a freelance
journalist, script writer and now union secretary.
UFAPI was invited to SAFF 1996 to lead discussions on African
women in filmmaking with a special focus on ''developing,
improving and promoting skills among African women so they can
contribute to the development of a regional industry.''
Mungai, chair of Kenya's Film Producers Association, feels
women's film associations are important, ''because as an
individual woman, no one will listen to you. As an organisation
you speak with one voice and its easy to get equipment in whatever
area, from video companies, mobile cinemas to show women's
She says the union can become a meeting-point to ''address the
interests of women, air your views and sort out your problems,
encourage and help young sisters that are just starting out by
giving guidance and direction on what kinds of films, scripts to
Mungai's first feature film 'Saikati' has won five awards to
date but making it was no sweatless task. ''The film crew do not
respect you as a director,'' she recalls. ''They were busy looking
at me as a woman and sometimes unknowingly making associations,
comparing me to women they know.''
She says the formation of unions should not be seen as a stance
of ''confrontation with our brothers. We sympathise with them. We
are complementing each other and fighting for the liberation of
the cinema of Africa. Our TV stations are corroded by programmes
from the West. We are colonised on our screens.''
''It is hard to make films anyway but double hard for a
woman,'' she continues, ''A man is taken seriously, gets listened
to by organisations such as banks but we have to prove ourselves
double, twice. I agree they struggle like us but we struggle
Soma concurs. ''African women filmmakers have difficulties. It
is too difficult to make a film in Africa. You are the screen
writer, producer, distributor, do a lot of work, have to go around
to look for money.''
Moreover, ''If you are an African woman, have a child, husband
and so on, it is difficult for you to take your career
seriously,'' he explains.
He's right, according to Dauh. ''Women get all these
distractions,'' she says. ''If a man is doing a film he just
concentrates on the film ... (but) the African women, unlike women
film makers in the West, are attending to family. Everyone needs
attention. It's double demand on women.'' (END/IPS/IM/KB/96)
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