The dark side of Zim’s film industry

Clemence Machadu
It is also unfortunate to note that some women in the film industry are very protective of their abusive male counterparts. Some have been given roles and production shares and hence . . .

Howdy folks!

The film industry in Zimbabwe has seen a notable growth in terms of quality over the past half decade. However, this growth has not equally transmitted into monetary value due to a number of reasons, including piracy.

In many projects, players in the industry still continue to operate on shoe-string budgets, with professionalism not being upheld.

There are a number of films sets that tend to exploit women.

The industry in itself has managed to create males who think everything they give a woman, from a role, to a position must be repaid in “kind’’.

Forgetting the talent the woman bring to the role or the work, these men only think they are doing women a favour.

Even in cases where the woman actually invests in the project, there still is that mentality that she is just there to satisfy the hormonal needs of men in the project.

There are some film companies owned by men who sometimes propose that they live with their female cast and crew for ‘’efficiency and time management’’ purposes when shooting video projects.

This has seen lots of unsuspecting and desperate girls packing their bags to go and live at such “all expenses paid for” houses.

And eventually, the boss-employee relationship becomes complicated and ugly in such set-ups.

It degenerates into intrusion of private spaces, and exposure to the dark world of drugs and substance abuse.

Usually the one being fed is the vulnerable one whose principles and values are compromised the most.

This set up may sometimes be, in terms of filming the best, but it is also a highly fertile ground for creating multiple sexual partners, contracting HIV, STIs and abuse of power, at worst.

Stories have been told plenty of times about women who have turned down sexual advances from their male producers and directors and were later denied their payment and roles.

These stories have been in circulation for years but very few women have taken up the cases to court.

The ones who have been brave enough to do so have managed to get their money.

Even the ones who stood up against their employers have also managed to get their money.

But to some, that was the end of their careers.

You see, there is an apparent cartelisation of the film industry by some men in the country to an extent that once one production house condemns a woman, they can also put word out there that ensures that every door she knocks on won’t be opened until she is willing to go through the “initiation”.

The initiation pertains offering their bodies for the male bosses.

The reason why most women have not stood up against such sexual predators in the industry is that some are embarrassed of making headlines revealing their personal issues in the media.

They regard it as taboo.

Many women would rather just cry themselves to sleep or complain in the shadows than name and shame their perpetrators.

Some have the mind-set that going to court is a long and costly process for them to accrue justice.

Some have just folded their arms and concluded that it’s a men’s world.

Others have found solace in the drugs they were initiated into, and are still nursing the addiction at the expense of their careers.

Some just dance to tune, so long the money is coming for them to put food on the table.

And the vicious circle of disrespect, abuse, exploitation and manipulation continues.

After getting a role, rehearsals can take several months or even a year in Zimbabwe.

During that period, a woman is supposed to provide for her own transport costs and food to attend rehearsals.

These rehearsals are often for TV productions and the more they are postponed the more the actors and crew continue to fend for their own transport, rentals and food as they wait for thy kingdom to come.

And in most cases, the director or producer often has a few dollars to spare for the young damsels in distress. Eventually, when the filming finally commences, he would have dated or slept with at least half the cast.

They say behind every successful man is a woman. Ironically, behind many oppressed women in the film industry are men.

It is also unfortunate to note that some women in the film industry are very protective of their abusive male counterparts.

Some have been given roles and production shares and hence they will protect that man at the expense of the well being of other women.

Not every woman is also a saint, though.

There are women who are known to seduce and sleep with their male directors and producers to get roles without merit.

These women have made it hard for other women with talents to audition, invest and work in the industry.

Their loose morals have planted an erroneous impression in the male film makers minds that all women in the arts industry are of loose morals.

The popular question is always “were you really forced to have sex or you are just bitter?’’

That is always the question that many ignorantly ask a woman who complains about being abused in the film industry.

Sometimes, the influential men in the industry can charm a woman into sleeping with her by promises of a lasting relationship or marriage.

But once he gets her into bed, the interest in her disappears.

It becomes hard for the woman to claim her payment because now he is an ex who tossed her aside and moved on to her fellow colleague, leaving her with an emotional breakdown.

Remember this is the same industry that sometimes solves issues without the complainant being present.

It is also the same industry that accepts an “I dated her” excuse as a way to squash an accusation.

It is also the same industry that hardly does investigations on abuses against female artistes.

It also the same industry that does not educate women about their rights and their right to legal representation.

Female DJs also suffer the same fate at the hands of male promoters or club managers.

As if being underpaid is not bad enough, they are sometimes not paid in time after performing, and have to go back and forth several times to demand their dues. But the male promoter’s real intention is to make her vulnerable and relent to his sexual demands.

The growth of the film industry in Zimbabwe cannot be celebrated if all these abuses on women are still happening and nothing much is being done to redress these anomalies.

It is ruthless growth.

Sanity should prevail and women should be treated professionally and in a dignified manner.

We are in the new dispensation for goodness sake. The actors have changed, so should the script!

Later folks!

 

Clemence Machadu is an economist and Ranganawa is an award winning scriptwriter. They wrote this article for The Sunday Mail in their personal capacities.

 

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