Malawi sings for southern Africa


No-one gave a chance to now award-winning actress Joyce Mhango Chavula that she would make it in the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCAs) – her name was simply a small fish among the Chambo.

Actually, some Malawians still do not believe that the actress won and there have been questions coming up – which film is this? Where has she been showing it? When did she release it? Is the film worth it?

But for those who have followed the movie industry, the film was released last year and was premiered in Lilongwe during a film festival held at Madsoc Theatre.


The film is not yet on a DVD and this is the trend that many film-makers do. They do not want to rush to put movies on a DVD since they target screening them in international film festivals.

With her Lilongwe movie, Joyce was pitted against two South African films in the Best Movie – Southern Africa category, namely Ayanda by Sarah Bletcher and Tell Me Sweet Something by Akin Omotosho, both of which had more nominations.

With the two films getting more nominations, there simply was no way one would give a chance to a movie produced from Malawi.


But the judges did not look at where the film was coming from or whether there were two top movies produced from South Africa, but they were looking for the best and to them Lilongwe was the best.

On our way to Lagos, Nigeria we met some South Africans who asked us what we were going to do there and all we said was we were going for the AMVCAs and that one of our movies had been nominated.

Just by the mention of AMVCAs, these South Africans also said their two movies had been nominated and when we told them their films were in the same category with our movie they simply said “you have lost.”

They underrated Joyce’s movie but little did they know Lilongwe would come out the victor and break the jinx for Malawi and simply blow the trumpet that the Warm Heart of Africa has what it takes to stand out in the world of making movies.

I watched the two South African movies in the plane on our way to Lagos, just to see how powerful the films were and whether Joyce stood a chance.

I managed to finish Ayanda which impressed me although I thought it was complicated but I did not manage to finish Tell Me Sweet Something as by the time I was half way, we had already started our descend for Muhammad Murtala Airport.

The red carpet AMVCAs grand finale brought journalists from the African continent with those from West Africa dominating since there were more categories for West African movies which included local languages.

For southern African journalists which included South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, it was only Malawi and South Africa whose movies got nominations.

And so once Joyce came out the victor, all the southern African countries apart from reporting on the results for the AMVCAs, their focus was on Malawi.

“At least you have a lead to write but for us there is nothing but still more Malawi’s triumph is for southern Africa and we are happy,” said a Zambian journalist.

And while West African journalists focused their attention on Nollywood movies and the Best top four categories, some of the southern African journalists focused their attention on Joyce and her Lilongwe movie.

A journalist from Botswana during an interview with Joyce thought there are more film schools in Malawi and the resources that is why the country had done well.

But she was surprised when Joyce said there were no film schools in Malawi apart from University of Malawi –Chancellor College, where not many are selected.

Joyce even went on to say that most of the artists work with inadequate resources and that her movie was of low budget costing her K1.5 million.

“We have several challenges as artists but all this success is coming because of hard work, one just needs to stay focused and do your best with the little resources you have.

African governments must surely stand up and help the creative industry because it has shown it has potential,” said the actress, who was accompanied to the AMVCAs by lead actor in Lilongwe, Brenda Mselu, who plays Lilongwe.

The Botswana journalist went on to ask for tips which she wanted to share to the country’s film industry which she said was not that vibrant.

The country also did well in 2010 in the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) where actress Tapiwa Gwaza won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Shemu Joyah’s Seasons of a Life.

It also did well in AMAA in 2013 when musician Agorosso won the Best Sound for another of Joyah’s movies The Last Fishing Boat.

But Joyce made history for Malawi becoming the first to win in the AMVCAs and the first to notch the Best Movie –Southern Africa which was only introduced this year alongside Best Movie –East Africa and Best Movie –West Africa.

Her film has a good story, sound and picture. The journey for the success of the movie on the international platform started last year when it was also selected for screening in the competition category at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival in October.

The title of the movie Lilongwe is also the name of the country’s capital city where the film was shot and it tells the story of a 13-year- old girl who later grows into a beautiful young woman but still haunted by her past.

The film talks about a very strong woman who had three children from three different men.

“Society says she is a prostitute but she believes she is doing her best to survive. Throughout the story, Lilongwe is saying, don’t judge me, you don’t know my story,” said Joyce.

The film features Mselu as the lead actress and Joab Chakhaza as the lead actor and Mhango Chavula also features in the movie alongside artist Neil Nayar.

“The film was shot in rural and urban Lilongwe. The title was an inspiration from Onyeka Nwelue, a Nigerian writer who once visited Lilongwe and fell in love with the city and he wanted to do a film but later could not,” said the National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) and Film Association of Malawi (Fama) vice president.

Joyce also received a nomination in AMAA in 2014 for Best Feature Film by Director for her movie No More Tears in but she failed to make it.

The AMVCAs grand finale was truly a red carpet and the venue Eko Hotel has a structure for hosting different arts activities something which is missing in Malawi.

There are no proper structures for hosting events and some of them do not cater for the other arts fields.

The once mighty entertainment Mecca Blantyre Cultural Centre formerly French Cultural Centre, is still in a pathetic state and yet to be rehabilitated although it still hosts events.

This also being a red carpet, the event had all the ingredients of a red carpet citing among others, the photo shoots and there was security something which local organisers can learn from.

Of course there were gaps for instance on the categories which were more dominated by West Africa but all in all it was a good event worth appreciating.

The AMVCAs are spearheaded by Africa Magic in association with MultiChoice and the headline sponsor was Amstel Malta.

The hosts for this year’s event broadcast live on all Africa Magic channels on DStv and GOtv, were IK, who was hosting the event for the fourth time and South Africa’s Minenhle ‘Minnie’ Dlamini.

While people commended the organisers for the event, others still feel there is still more dominance from Nollywood looking at the categories.

Some quarters felt the AMVCAs need to be open to all countries and that Africa Magic channels have to be for all and not only Nollywood.

“Africa Magic channels have been dominated by Nollywood movies for all these years, some channels surely have to be opened up for movies from let’s say southern Africa which is sidelined. In my country, for example, we have very good movies but the film-makers think this is a Nollywood thing,” said one of the southern African journalists.

The past southern Africa has had no chance in terms of showcasing their movies and music but thanks to Zambezi Magic which now offers a platform.

The platform which was launched in July last year, has so far screened Joyah’s movies The Last Fishing Boat and Seasons of a Life and currently also screens a soap Choices.

But southern African journalists feel this is not enough and that they have to get access on Africa Magic platforms where movies can be appreciated fully and earn nominations on AMVCAs.

M-Net Director West Africa Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu said the event was open to all countries and that they just showed it by introducing other categories.

She said that this year they did not receive more entries from Southern Africa and called upon them to participate adding that they have plans to hold workshops in different countries as part of growing the movie industry in Africa.

The director said there are great stories in Africa which needs to be told and that they were happy that through the AMVCAs, they were recognising and celebrating film and television talent across Africa.

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