The Sunday Mail
A star-studded, proudly Zimbabwean movie, “Cook Off”, premières at Ster-Kinekor Sam Levy’s Village in Harare on December 7.
Tomas Brickhill and Joe Njagu, the co-directors, have been quietly working on the production that features Anne Nhira, Tehn Diamond, Jesesi Mungoshi, Eddy Sandifolo, Michael Kudakwashe, Chati Bukwa and Memory Bususu among others.
The lead is played by South Africa-based Zimbabwean actress Tendaiishe Chitima, who has featured in a television shows like “iNumber Number”, “Isidingo” and “Mutual Friends”.
“We are thrilled with the progress made ahead of the launch. I’m positive that ‘Cook Off’ will be a favourite of many Zimbabweans,” said Brickhill, adding, “The story is about a girl who loves cooking and enters a cooking competition without any formal training. The movie was inspired by the local cooking competition, Battle of the Chefs.”
Brickhill spoke about how they brought together the stellar cast. “The script did the job for us. When we shared the script with most of the cast members they returned eager to get on board. This made the negotiations with the cast easier for us.
“However, in the case of our main character, Tendaiishe, it was serendipity. She just happened to be in the country and was looking for a project to work on and the rest is history. Had our paths not crossed at that time, it would have been difficult for us to fly her back home, provide accommodation during her stay and all the other expenses that we would have had to incur.”
Brickhill and crew started shooting this 110-minute movie in August 2017 and they are already done. Njagu attributed this to “proper planning”.
“The script was ready a year earlier and we then took three months brainstorming on execution. “By the time we got a cast to work with, because we had preplanned our mission, the process was quick.”
Njagu added that the power of collaborations helped accelerate things.
“Many times Zimbabwean filmmakers want to do things by themselves. This is a poor mindset and should be stopped if there are any hopes of building a local film industry.
“Tom and I have a lot of years of experience in the sector and by sharing our knowledge, we capitalised on our strengths – thus, we managed to work faster and avoid setbacks that many ‘solo’ filmmakers would face,” he added.
With regards to financing, Brickhill said they secured US$60 000 for the movie.
“We were privileged to have investors come on board to finance this project. We pitched the idea to them and some instantaneously cashed in but others then jumped on when the train was already moving because we were determined to do it, with or without the budget we wanted.
“Our investors are looking at a return on investment so by selling the DVD locally we are aiming at breaking even. We will also take the movie on the international festival circuit – already we have some festivals interested in screening it.”
A quick preview given exclusively to The Sunday Mail Society shows a movie that not just talks about cooking, but also touches on the struggles of being a young, single mother.
Njagu was part of last year’s single Zimbabwean big screen movie “Escape”.
Said Njagu: “Movies are the toughest businesses in the film sector. Many filmmakers find it daunting — hence the preference to do more dramas, short films and the like. However, coming closer to home, I believe filmmakers must be realistic.
“You hear someone saying they want to do a movie in Zimbabwe for US$200 000. That is ridiculous. There is nowhere you will get such money. Players in the sector should be ready to start small and collaborate more. I know from experience that if you do a movie with a budget of at most US$50 000 you can get your money back. If investors get value for their money, they will be more than willing to invest in future projects.”
Njagu added that another reason why the local film sector had restricted output lay in its origins.
“Movies such as ‘Neria’ and ‘Yellow Card’ were made from funds to push a certain message. For instance, ‘Yellow Card’ was made to push the message of safe sex and all. The project was funded to the tune of US$2 million by USAid.
“Now what has happened is because our fathers were used to receiving funds to do work, they never developed that hunger to push their own ideas and make money off them. “To this day, there are many who have adopted this mindset and this has caused the number of movies produced annually to be low because people are waiting for some donor to pop up with funds.”