The Sunday Mail
Twice widowed former first lady of Mozambique and South Africa, Graca Machel, arrives in the country this afternoon for the special screening of a film based on the life of former Mozambican president, the late Samora Moises Machel.
Samora Machel, a military strategist and revolutionary socialist leader who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1986, was Graca’s first husband.
Graca, who was 41 when Samora Machel died, re-married but was widowed again when her second husband, former South African President Nelson Mandela, died in December last year.
The film, titled “Camarada Presidente”, is being screened as part of the ongoing Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) which roared into life yesterday.
The 89-minute-long epic biopic tells the story of a man who fought not only for the independence of Mozambique but for Africa as a whole.
The director of the film festival, Nigel Munyati, confirmed that Graca and daughter Josina are set to arrive in Zimbabwe today.
“All I can say for now is that she is definitely coming together with her daughter Josina and the Vice-President Amai Joyce Mujuru will be her hostess while she is around. Graca and her daughter are the special guests to the screening of this film.
“Although they are arriving a day after the official opening night at Ster-Kinekor Westgate, we arranged this special screening for them. An ‘A’ list of the who-is-who from a wide spectrum of Zimbabwe’s social, political, artistic and corporate industries will make up the guests for this special event,” said Munyati.
He said that the special screening event would be made even more special by superstar Oliver Mtukudzi, who will serenade guests in between the proceedings with his acoustic solo sound.
Filmmaker Mosco Kamwendo, the writer and director of the film, will introduce his film to Graca and the guests, and lead a question and answer session at the end of the screening.
Although Mosco has been on the red carpet already with his film as a recipient of a Special Jury Mention at the Dubai International Film Festival last year, this will no doubt rank among one of the finest moments his film-making talents have afforded him.
Said Kamwendo: “I grew up in great wonderment as to why no one ever considered making a film about President Machel considering the amount of controversy surrounding the plane crash that killed him. As a young man in high school at the time, I found his death so riveting.
“The whole of Africa was plunged into mourning. In the many years that followed, we would listen to accusations and counter-accusations between Mozambique and apartheid South Africa. Mozambique believed and still believes that it was an assassination plot by apartheid South Africa, and in turn apartheid South Africa cited pilot error.”
Kamwendo said that he and many other Africans believed that the issue would be dealt with properly once a black government came to power in South Africa.
“In 1994 Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa, but still no explanation came. Therefore, when I set out to make this film I wanted to investigate President Machel’s plane crash, but as I carried out my research I discovered that his political and personal lives were much more exciting than the accident that killed him,” said Kamwendo.
The film, which is described as an “otherwise unorthodox look at the things about the charismatic leader that were unknown and unseen before” has Portuguese dialogue and English subtitles.
According to the synopsis of the film, “Camarada Presidente” is an insightful and revealing documentary about the controversial life and death of Mozambique’s founding president.
“A Mozambican village boy called Samora Moises Machel rises to become a daring guerrilla strategist who devotes his life to fighting colonialism in Southern Africa. He however faces post-independence leadership challenges midway and is killed in a mysterious plane crash in apartheid South Africa,” reads part of the synopsis.
The film shows Samora Machel’s upbringing as a 1930’s Mozambican village boy who is initiated into the struggle for the independence of his country through his own experiences with Portuguese colonialism.
With vigour and charisma, he rises to become a psychologically resourceful leader.
The independence of Mozambique alone is not enough for him as his country cannot survive with racist Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa as neighbours.
This is a difficult situation requiring difficult solutions, some of which leaves Samora’s image in poor light. Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa respond by sponsoring a civil war in Mozambique, thereby discrediting its independence.
The more Samora wrestles his way through, the more the imperial forces consider him a dangerous communist who has to be stopped.
In the film, Kamwendo paints an image of a non–corrupt African leader who insisted on the executive being the first to sacrifice but the last to benefit, but nonetheless a human being with his own weaknesses and mistakes to make.
After assisting Zimbabweans in their fight for independence, Samora turns to apartheid South Africa, which has the strongest military on the continent.
The Russians he believes would come to his rescue never arrive and eventually the collapse of Communism leaves him without an ideology. Although he had enjoyed popular support from his people and colleagues in government, he finds himself fighting the war against apartheid South Africa alone towards his final days.
The United Kingdom based film-director, Kamwendo, is a filmmaker and academic researcher of Zimbabwean origin. His film career started in the late 1980’s as a trainee on numerous American and British films that came to use Zimbabwe as a location.
The films he worked on include “Cry Freedom” (Steve Biko 1987), “The Power of One” (1992), and “Bopha” (1993). After completing an advanced scriptwriting and film directing course at UNESCO – Zimbabwe Film Training Project in 1994, he proceeded to establish one of the first black film companies in Zimbabwe, JM Productions.
Under JM Productions, he produced and directed a number of documentaries in Zimbabwe and the surrounding countries. He holds a Master’s degree in creative writing for film and television from the University of Sheffield and a PhD in screenwriting from the University of the West of England.