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Women’s show in film making

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Gone are the days when women only restricted themselves to acting while waiting for men to write scripts for them to star in.

Theatre darling late Getrude Kamkwatira proved that women have all it takes to shine in the creative world by not only playing different roles in stage plays but also write and direct.

After the demise of theatre maestro Du Chisiza Jnr, Kamkwatira went on to drive Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre (WET) before later forming his own group Wanna Do Ensemble Theatre which went on to win awards in theatre.

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Kamkwatira stood out in the theatre world and, apart from driving the National Theatre Association of Malawi (Ntam) where she showed her leadership qualities, the actress went on to stitch several productions.

And now there is another crop of women that is slowly pushing men to the corner in the world of film making.

It all started with award winning actress Joyce Mhango-Chavula, who has been on top of the ladder having triumphed during the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCAs) in March with her movie Lilongwe.

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Before soaring with movies, Mhango Chavula started off with stage productions.

She has been way up writing and directing plays for Rising Choreos some of which featured Nollywood stars Desmond Elliot, Patience Ozokwor alias Mama G and Van Vicker.

Mhango-Chavula later went on to feature in the movies B’ella and The Last Fishing Boat before expanding her territory to work on her own movies.

Not an easy task though but Mhango-Chavula proved that as a woman, she also had potential to write and direct movies and not only restrict herself to acting.

Today she prides in producing two movies No More Tears which got her a nomination two years ago in the Africa Movie Academy Awards (Amaa) and her award winning movie Lilongwe.

“There are no boundaries for women in theatre, we can act, write and direct plays and it is the same in film making. It all just needs one to be brave. Actually women are far much better when it comes to telling stories,” she said.

Mhango-Chavula said she wants more women to come out and tell their stories through movies.

“We can do it, it’s not all about men dominating everything, we have potential and all what we need to do is to stay focused and not underrate ourselves,” said the actress, whose award winning movie outclassed two South African films Ayanda by Sarah Bletcher and Tell Me Sweet Something by Akin Omotosho to claim the Best Movie Southern Africa accolade.

In Nollywood, for instance, several actresses have also made positive steps writing and directing movies and one of them is Stephanie Okereke Linus, whose film Dry was voted the overall movie during AMVCAs.

And back in the country actress Chimwemwe Mkwezalamba also showed women power in film making when she produced her own movie The Designer.

With little resources and smaller budget, Mkwezalamba produced a quality movie which people appreciated when she launched it in Blantyre last year.

And now comes actress Flora Suya, who has also been in the world of acting for years starring in Shemu Joyah’s movies Seasons of a Life and The Last Fishing Boat.

Her acting has impressed many people. In the two movies she played leading roles and no wonder she ended up capturing the attention of Zambian film maker Owas Mwape, who once again gave her a leading role in his movie Chenda.

“She is talented no doubt about that and if she keeps on working hard she will surely go far and I should say it here that Malawi you have a gold in Flora Suya,” said Mwape last year.

But having played acting roles and shown her swag, Suya, who has also starred in several stage plays including the latest From the Freedom Square, a Descendants Ensemble Theatre production has taken a huge step in the film making – that of writing and directing.

She has since finalised her first film My Mother’s Story set to be premiered on May 28, 2016 at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe.

“It’s been my dream to work on my own movie and I am happy that finally I have it. This actually is the beginning of more things to come and people should expect to see more of me working as a film maker rather than restricting myself to acting only,” she said.

For her the sky is the limit and that it is not all about producing movies but rather coming out with quality work.

“It has not been that easy especially working with a low budget but God has been faithful and taken me through,” said Suya of the film which cost her K2.5 million to produce starting with pre-production (three weeks), shooting (six weeks) and editing (nine months).

The actress said she encountered a challenge to get a venue to shoot the movie before finally settling for Lilongwe.

“Initially I wanted to shoot it in Blantyre but it was difficult to get approval. This is another area where people and venue owners need to understand, they have to embrace film making. I moved to Lilongwe because things were so simple and I should thank all the people who gave us a go ahead without any problems to shoot in their places,” she said.

Suya said she was inspired to work on the movie after she went to Zambia to star in Chenda.

“I saw several film makers doing low budget movies and I said why can’t we do it here. Of course for you to produce a good movie you need to have enough but where you have no choice you can go ahead with the smaller budget,” said the actress, whose premiere is expected to be attended by Vice President Saulos Chilima.

Smaller budget movies are working these days especially for those who are laying the foundations although it is not easy to produce a film – you simply need enough.

I remember bumping into a film shooting by Hollywood star Denzel Washington in Cape Town in South Africa, there is just so much involved in shooting a movie.

There were signs all over ‘Film shooting in progress,’ and some of the busy roads had to be closed. Banks, shops and cafeterias had to be closed.

A huge budget is needed to shoot a quality movie and this is why Joyah came out to say he needs a fat budget to shoot the long awaited Chilembwe film since a lot of things will be involved.

Suya just like Mhango-Chavula said she wants through her works to show that women have potential to excel in film making.

“There is talent in the country and there are so many talented women out there but the biggest challenge has always been support. I always say that the corporate world has not been forthcoming. We write proposals but we are always given a cold shoulder and yet many are benefiting from arts,” she said.

Suya’s My Mother’s Story is about a young woman, who works as a housemaid and is impregnated by a gardener and later abandoned.

Whilst still pregnant she meets another man, who falls for her and life changes but tragedy later strikes.

“It’s an emotional story of love, betrayal and differences in social status. It’s a story which is 50 percent reality and actually this is an African story,” said Suya.

With many locals looking up to Nollywood, Suya was quick to say that she has used her own style which is different from Nollywood movies and that for her this is a film made in Malawi worthy being tagged Mollywood.

In the movie, Suya has featured several actors among them Tapiwa Gwaza, who she starred with in Seasons of a Life, Mirriam Mwazimva, Diana Satha, Jeremiah Mwaungulu and Annie Matumbi.

The actress has even played a fast one as she will be premiering the movie and at the same time launching its DVD just to make sure that people have it in their homes.

Watching the trailer of My Mother’s Story, one is convinced, Suya has done a good job and for now we can only wait to watch the whole movie to see whether the full package is up to standard.

Just to stick to a fellow woman, Suya has used gospel singer Gloria Manong’a to do the sound track of the movie and she will also perform during the premiere.

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