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Pushing film industry to the top

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2016 AMVCA WINNER — Chavula

The movie industry is an interesting artistic discipline, which has contributed immensely to economic development in Nigeria.

Audit firm PwC indicates that in 2021, Nigeria’s film industry contributed 2.3 percent and about 239 billion naira ($660 million) to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and projects that the industry will increase its export revenue earnings to over $1 billion.

In an industry where resources are inadequate, filmmakers in Malawi continue to work extra hard to raise the profile of the country’s movie arena.

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Steps have been made in the country’s film industry but there is still a long way to go in terms of producing movies that will capture the attention of the world.

For now, we are running with quantity and not quality although there is an improvement compared to where we are coming from.

Film Association of Malawi (Fama) President Gift Sukez Sukali, whose film with HD Plus Fatsani: A Tale of Survival bagged an award for Best Film Director –Southern Africa at Sotambe International Film and Arts Festival in Zambia, said the country has potential, looking at movies produced and that it was just a matter of time.

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“We are going the right direction for sure; shortfalls will always be there but what we need now is full support,” Sukali said.

Having made headway in winning awards in the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards AMVCAs) through Joyce Mhango Chavula in 2016 with her film Lilongwe and Joyah’s The Road to Sunrise in 2018, the country had no nominations in the 2022 edition.

Sukali said filmmakers did not submit their films this year to compete in AMVCAs despite having a number of films premiered.

“Our failure to submit movies in the 2022 AMVCAs does not necessarily mean that we are going backwards but rather the process was complex for many players but I am sure in 2023 we will do better,” Sukali said.

The Fama president has also called for support to create platforms where filmmakers can ably showcase their films and that this would in turn motivate them to produce enough for the market.

There are not, for now, many film festivals in the country that can help keep filmmakers on their toes in terms of growth.

European Union (EU) has been instrumental in raising the arts in the country, including the film industry.

They have over the years provided a platform for filmmakers through the European Film Festival, which in 2022 run its third edition.

EU Ambassador Rune Skinnebach said the festival shows EU’s commitment to the development of the creative industries in Malawi.

He described films as an important art discipline and that they constitute a window to another world as well as take us to places that “we cannot easily get to ourselves or accommodate in our daily lives”.

“Cultural exchanges constitute an important driver for peace, progress and development. Films break down barriers and transmit values, feelings and longings that are shared by all of us,” Skinnebach said.

The EU Ambassador said it was rewarding to offer through the European Film Festival, a way for Malawian filmmakers to also display their talents.

“For us, the European Film Festival is an important element for the European Union’s cultural diplomacy, and hence an engine for sustainable social and economic development, and for intercultural dialogue to foster peaceful inter-community relations,” Skinnebach said.

Fama Secretary General James Kitchen said their introduction of Movie Nights and Master Classes were a sign of progress and that they were determined to develop the industry.

“As Fama, we are trying to create a platform for filmmakers in Malawi and at the same time empowering them to create good content,” Kitchen said.

The eighth edition of AMVCAs saw a movie from Namibia titled Hairareb by Dantagos Jimmy-Melani claim the Best Movie – Southern Africa.

Mhango Chavula, who broke the record in AMVCAs and raised the country’s flag as the first filmmaker to win the Best Movie Southern Africa award, said there was still more to be done to raise Malawi’s film industry.

“There has been a boom in the industry and much as we have premiered more movies, we still need to look at the content. Things have changed now and festivals are looking for more. As an industry, we need to look at a bigger picture and clearly look at what we are doing,” she said.

Chavula said there was need to keep the fire burning for the industry and urged fellow filmmakers to keep working hard and also strive for quality and not quantity.

Joyah has now and again touched on quality as one of the areas that filmmakers in the country need to stick to if they are to do well on the international platform.

“I would be frank with you that despite having a number of films on the market, the quality still lacks, I always emphasize on taking our time,” he said.

Joyah said although the biggest challenge has been resources, filmmakers still have to tell good stories.

“Even if the resources are inadequate, we should not compromise on telling good stories. This is what I have been telling filmmakers during masterclasses I have facilitated,” he said.

Joyah said he is happy that Fama has looked on the side of holding master classes as part of sharing knowledge to build the film industry.

“We need more of these masterclasses and as long as I am around, I will always make my contributions,” he said.

Recently University of Malawi through the Department of Fine and Performing Arts (FPA) also engaged 68 artists in different artistic disciplines including film to share knowledge.

Head of Department – FPA Catherine Makhumula-Mtimuni said with the grant they received from Sound Connect Fund, an initiative of the Music in Africa Foundation in partnership with Goethe Institute South Africa and made possible with funding from the ACP-EU Culture programme and Siemens Stiftung, they would want to strengthen the creative industry.

Makhumula-Mtimuni said they were trying to get things moving and that they would want to get to as many artists as possible.

“Sula means to hone and in our case it means the honing of artistic skills. There is more coming and we even involved film because we noticed the gaps,” she said.

MultiChoice Malawi Corporate Affairs Manager Zena Makunje said they would have loved to have more Malawian films featuring in the 2022 AMVCAs.

She said they will continue to push the industry to produce quality content and that they have programmes that are there to help sharpen the skills of filmmakers citing the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) Academy.

“The curriculum for MTF combines film studies such as directing, sound design and the business of film with workplace experience on M-Net’s top productions. The 12-month fully-funded programme is open to candidates from Southern, Western and East African countries. This is all part building the film industry, it is all about encouraging filmmakers to tell their stories,” Makunje said.

MultiChoice Africa further said it is committed to building and sustaining the training-to-employment pipeline within Africa’s film and TV industry.

Some of the recipients of the programme from Malawi include Jonathan Kapumba and Mphatso Makamo, whose short movie Manda Aliza screened at the third European Film Festival.

Filmmaker and actor Ashukile Mwakisulu, creator of a film All We Have is Us and recently signed a contract with Accelerate Plus Television from Nigeria, said good masterclasses was the answer to helping filmmakers produce good content.

“I have always said that we are not doing badly as an industry; there are positives to take, looking at what filmmakers are producing. You look at some of the films we have and you get to see powerful stories but there is more room for improvement,” Mwakisulu said.

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