The Sunday Mail
How true is Zimbabwe International Film Festival director Elton Mjanana’s claim that local productions have a long way to go before they can be considered to headline events of an “international calibre like ours”? In an interview with The Sunday Mail Leisure at the festival, whose curtain came down yesterday, Mjanana said local films were not yet at a level to open such fiestas.
“We have to be representative in truth and entirety to the Zimbabwean film industry. We do not want to expose our film industry and have it open a film festival of an international calibre like ours with a weak film simply because it’s local,” said Mjanana.
“Films have to be given a platform at an international stage on merit because of who they are, because of what they stand for and quality control. They must meet a certain criteria.”
He, however, had to quickly eat those words, as local film “Escape” — a collaborative effort between Joe Njagu and Agnieszka Piotrowska — proved to be a hit on Tuesday night, attracting an overwhelming turnout and organisers had to open another cinema after the venue filled to capacity.
The turnout and reception for “Escape’s” premiere easily dwarfed that seen on the opening night offering of British film “Amy”, and Mjanana conceded that films like “Escape” had potential to open big festivals.
“Certainly with films like ‘Escape’ coming through and many other films in our short film categories, and in our other Zimbabwe Calabash categories, I am even more confident that in the not too distant future we will open with a local film.
“Escape would have opened any festival I believe on the African continent but then you know, it is what it is. We hope we will open with a local film of this magnitude and calibre next year.”
He went on, “The fact that this year we have had a record number of entries from local films means that the quality was very high.
“We haven’t had that much in terms of local entries because we have always thought that the quality wouldn’t be nicely representative of Zimbabwe in the context of an international setup, but this year it’s different because the quality is good.
“This one we have just seen today by Joe Njagu and Agnieszka Piotrowska firmly reaffirms the fact that we did not do any favours to local films to enter, there was no sympathy and it was all because of the quality that we made such numbers.”
However, despite giving minimal exposure to local filmmakers, there are some aspects of the festival that deserve credit.
“I think local filmmakers are going to learn a lot because this year we have got in our industry programme the film forum, which has over five workshops that are basically about personal development, training and skills enhancement.
“We have had Tatenda Jamera who has had enough international exposure working on videos for the likes of Nicky Minaj, Awilo Longomba coming in and sharing his experience. We have got practical sound production and design workshops coming up and a whole load of other educational programmes.”
He said the festival was a healthy mix of fun, learning, industry trade and film showcase.
“I am happy to say that adding onto the list of veteran filmmakers, we have a whole bunch of youngsters who are coming up as emerging filmmakers and these youngsters are well read, well versed with information and technology, youngsters who belong to a global village and they are eager to learn.”
This year’s festival, which was running under the theme “Reel, Sound and Music”, ran throughout last week, showcasing 59 entries — 25 of them local productions.
The festival was opened by a British film “Amy”, marking the start of a week where most of the main slots would be dominated by foreign offerings. Some critics said this was because of the sponsorship aspect, exemplified by the opening night which was sponsored by the British Council, and followed by the Italian Night, Japan Night and USA Night among others, all sponsored by organisations from those countries.