European Film Festival- in Conversation with Malawian Creatives
I arrived late and alone. I scanned the room for a familiar face but of course no one I know can be found in spaces where introducing myself as a blogger and columnist does not induce a cringe in my audience.
Photo credit: Calysto Mnyanga
I found myself there thanks to an email invitation and my well known love of subtitles. The European Union in partnership with Lake of Stars, Cineuropa, Goethe Institute and Institut Franscais had put together an entire day of film art and movies free of charge at Jacaranda Cultural Centre in Blantyre. The turnout was amazing. When I got in just after 12 there was barely anywhere to sit and people kept trickling in till late in the evening.
Were a line of up of short films, feature length films and even an Oscar nominated film. With universal themes like climate change, migration, cultural identity, tradition, poverty and survival.
The first Malawian film I watched was Going South by Elson Kambalu, which is a story about migrating to south Africa in search of greener pastures, a story that many Malawians are familiar with but has not been told till now(not according to my knowledge) and told so well might I add. This got me thinking, there are so many stories of our Malawian existence that I consider extraordinary that we are not telling on film. Why are we not doing it? When I just watched this powerful short film that looks like it didn’t take much to tell this powerful story?
What does it take to be a film maker in Malawi? This question was burning in my mind and I realized that I was in a room full of creatives and I might as well get some answers.10 minutes and a Fanta orange later, I made my way to my first target:
Visual artist| co- founder Zaluso Arts
Who it turns out is shy man of a few words told me that all it takes to be a Malawian film maker is “a camera and a good story. A compelling story, your authentic story. People can tell when you aren’t being sincere, like any kind of art you should do it for yourself first. Create for yourself, make a movie you would actually like to see”
Photo credit :Malawi Nation
On my way back upstairs, I ran into Code Sangala whom I introduced myself to and asked the question what it takes to be a Malawian film maker. He asked me if I was recording, I said no because I felt that would have been invasive. He then responded to my question in a passionate monologue that left me no choice but to turn on my recorder, an essential tip that helped me capture everyone’s voice and listen actively afterwards.
Code said “to be a Malawian film maker, you have to be brave. Brave enough to start now, with what you have. Start now in spite of everything else going on in your life. Start now with what you have because no one is going to just show up and give you a bunch of money to create a movie. Your story is important, the story of your community and country is important and needs to be told by you today otherwise you risk other people telling it and doing you an injustice.”
Writer | Head of Media – Lake of Stars| Socialite with a purpose
The fourth selfie, taken with permission from my good side
I approached Zilanie with reverence and decorum because that was Zilanie and I was trying so hard not to fan out. But she is an absolute joy, so open and friendly. When I asked her what it takes to be film maker in Malawi she told me she is not a filmmaker but said “I think that you have to be prepared to have a lot of challenges and you have to persist through them. The same way it takes to be any kind of artist or creative whether you’re a comic, a visual artist, photographer even if you are a non-creative .You have to make a choice that this is my passion and I am going to go through with it.You have to be prepared that is is going to take hard work. It is going to take disappointments, different kinds of challenges. But the joy is in the journey, be prepared for the journey.”
International Communications and Program Management Specialist | Organizer – Tumain Festival
I caught tom on his way out and it turns out I know him from twitter, he told me “It can be easy to be a film maker, it is easier than it has been in a long time historically, it is easier to capture the footage, easier to edit. To answer your question it doesn’t take a good camera, or good editing suite. But people sometime thinks it does and that then stops them from getting started with good ideas and getting experience, which is more important. It takes starting to film things, it takes perseverance and it takes vision. It takes networking and pushing to get your work recognized. It has become so easy to create and share, there is Tik Tok, there is Instagram, YouTube all story telling mediums. I saw a movie from Dzaleka Refugee Camp that was picked up from YouTube by the Guardian. So I would say all you need to do is create and share. “
I think I found everything I was looking for in these conversations. Whether it is film making, writing, designing, and even entrepreneurship you have to start now, start where you are with what you have. Nothing is easy, nothing is straight forward. Your only responsibility is to craft, create and share. That is all you need to do.
I hope you were inspired.
Photo credit: Calysto Mnyanga
Thank you for reading,