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The Road to Sunrise

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It has been said that making a film is a serious endeavour as it demands a lot.

I have watched movies being shot and I recall the experience of movie shootings in Cape Town, South Africa, and New York, USA.

Cameras of all kinds were there, big, small, a ward robe of clothes in a container where actors and actresses were changing clothes from one scene to the other while brand new vehicles were being smashed in scenes.

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Roads closed with signs telling it all Film Shooting in Progress.

This is what is involved in making a movie — it is not a simple endeavour and, when a finished product comes on the ground, it is important for people to appreciate all this by buying the original work and avoiding piracy.

It is also important for people to patronise the screenings which usually come before the movie is put on DVD.

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And, here at home, the film industry is still in its infancy but it has made steady progress with several filmmakers producing different movies.

Despite not having enough on the ground, in terms of resources, some filmmakers have, using low budgets, produced the best works with others still having a long way to go to hit the ceiling.

One name that has always stood out in the filmmaking business is that of Charles Shemu Joyah.

Joyah’s name is no small meat in the world of making movies in the country. He has, through his works, helped to put the country on the world map.

He debuted with Seasons of A Life which went on to win several awards and his second, The Last Fishing Boat, did the same.

In the two movies, Joyah never rushed in bringing them to the market. He took his time and overcame the temptation of coming out with rushed works until he was satisfied that he was ready.

And the country has always looked forward to his movies.

The past years, Joyah has been talking about producing John Chilembwe’s movie as part of promoting the country’s history but, to him, the biggest challenge has been funding.

For him to come out with this film, he surely needs a big budget and, by now, the corporate world could have given him support, basing on his track record.

But, as he waits to work on Chilembwe movie, he could not stop working on another movie. Shooting started last year.

It was not easy for Joyah and team to work on this movie and I recall them shooting one of the scenes at Robin’s Park in Blantyre. It was a form of show, with several people in attendance.

There was just so much investment looking at this scene and one thing was for sure – Joyah works very hard, invests effort in his movies, spends a lot of money and, most of all, wants nothing but quality work.

And despite finishing shooting the movie last year, Joyah never again rushed to put the film on the market. It had to undergo several processes including heavy editing.

But, finally, he is ready with the movie whose title screams The Road to Sunrise.

Joyah has once again finalised his third movie — The Road to Sunrise— through his FirstDawn Arts.

The movie will premiere on November 3 2017 at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe.

Joyah said the film will premiere after taking almost a year in post-production.

“The film was shot in August and September last year,” he said.

From Lilongwe, the film will premiere in Blantyre at Robin’s Park on November 11.

Joyah said The Road To Sunrise chronicles the lives of two prostitutes in their struggle to survive in the rough, unforgiving slums of Blantyre.

Some of the places where the film was shot include Ndirande, Chilomoni, Limbe, Blantyre Central Business District and Sun and Sand Lakeshore Resort in Mangochi.

While people still have the names of well-known actors and actresses in, among others, Flora Suya, Tapiwa Gwaza, Hope Chisanu and Ben Msuku in the two previous movies, Joyah said all the leading actors are new comers in film acting.

Mirriam Phiri is taking the lead role in the movie starring as Rubia, Chantelle B. Phiri as Watipa, Madock Masina as their pimp, Shoti, and Tambudzo Mpinganjira as Zondwa, Rubia’s love interest.

Other actors in the film are Mphatso Mwale, Yankho Seunda, Blessings Suya and Felicity Thunyani.

The renowned names have since not been left out completely as Chisanu, Gwaza and Msuku are starring as supporting actors.

Joyah, who is the director of the film, said he chose to cast new faces in leading roles because he believes that there is a lot of untapped talent in the country.

He added that this is one way of exposing this talent and that the best way was to give them leading and challenging roles.

According to a press statement from First Dawn Arts, due to the complexity of the story, Joyah hired William Collinson, a Director of Photography from South Africa, to shoot the film.

William brought his assistant Marco Kings whereas sound recording was done by Peter Kepkay, a Canadian who has been living in Malawi for two years.

But before the premiere in Malawi, The Road To Sunrise will premiere internationally at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival on September 29 2017.

And, as said earlier, The Road to Sunrise tells the story of two prostitutes, Rubia and Watipa, who struggle to survive in the rough, unforgiving slums of Blantyre.

They find themselves trapped between their switchblade-welding pimp on one side, and male clients ready to take advantage of them on the other.

Rubia meets a naïve young man, Zondwa, who falls in love with her and proposes to marry her.

However, Rubia, never trusting men, refuses. But when Zondwa is transferred to Lilongwe, Rubia becomes lonely and begins to review her life.

One night she refuses to have sex with one of her clients, a very rich businessman.

The businessman violently attacks her and, in self defence, she stabs him to death. She is arrested and charged with murder.

Her subsequent trial becomes a battle not just to escape the death sentence but also a journey towards her inner emancipation.

“The story is about exploitation, love, hope, the power of friendship, and the untiring human spirit in its quest for survival and freedom,” Joyah said.

The filmmaker said the film interrogates the society’s view of women, who are exploited through the sex industry, and how it uses double standards to judge the men who exploit prostitutes.

Joyah further said the story has a profound message to the youth of today, particularly girls, on how they can survive the adverse conditions of exploitation and empower themselves.

He said stories of prostitutes have been told since time immemorial, with the Bible having its own fair share.

However, Joyah said what makes The Road To Sunrise different from other productions is that it tells the story from the point of view of the prostitutes themselves as they try to survive exploitation and abuse from male clients and their pimp.

“Therefore, the film brings to the screen characters not generally depicted in cinema or, if so, as supporting characters to others. The Road To Sunrise makes them heroes as they travel on the uncertain road to self-empowerment and emancipation,” he said.

This is Joyah’s third movie and he hopes that it will conquer once again.

Joyah was born in June 1959. He has a B.Sc. degree in mathematics and physics from Chancellor College, University of Malawi, and a B.Sc. Hons degree in Surveying and Mapping Sciences from the University of East London, United Kingdom.

He runs a consultancy company which deals in land matters but has been involved in the arts since his schools days.

Some of his short stories and poems have been published in anthologies.

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