Exclusive with Malaika Mushandu
By Nico Abote & Tapiwa Rubaya
As time passes by, it is easy for one to forget what might have happened a week ago, a month or a year and it has been said many a times, ‘If it’s not written, then it doesn’t exist’ unknown.
The future generations are more empowered if they know their past, learn from the success stories of their ancestors and drive a more conscious narrative for other generations to come. Now our main challenge is to change what has already been said and written about this ‘Dark Continent’, Africa, a land described as a jungle and with uncivilised communities, a position that has driven many to believe this as their own curse and way of life, the normal & only way. But as I remember very well during my conversation with one of Africa’s champions, Prof. Rukuni, he would say, ‘To know where you are going, one should know where they are coming from’, in part of the many discussions we would have, the professor made it clear that Africa’s only hope lies in the story we tell, the story we document and the ideas we are willing to pass on. Now this is a challenge I am willing to partake and make sure, not only my family tree is made clear, but that of my roots in Africa remain as strong, passing on the tales as if I live in the future.
Our best way, the only possible drive towards ‘Telling Our Own Stories’ lies in more film development in Africa. Africa is not Wakanda, we should tell our own stories as the original custodians. If we are able to reverse the clock to the early civilizations and narrate their way of life and even fast forward to the current stories, 100yrs from now, those who will watch these movies or documentaries will have more respect and appreciation of their own history. Development is a process, we should not be the problem. What’s your role in making sure this happens, now!?
Our reporter, Tapiwa Rubaya (TR), had an exclusive conversation with Malaika Mushandu (MM) about her latest Film, Miarage.
Malaika Mushandu is one of the most successful models in Southern Africa’s Modelling industry. It has been proven that, the International model, Malaika she is not only among the best models to ever come out from the landlocked country, Zimbabwe, but also one of the best Zollywood film and movie directors.
As she became the first Zimbabwean, debut movie director to be nominated at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.
The awards are set to be held on the 20th of December in Nigeria. Her nomination came along with other two nominations of the movie, which she directed.
In an interview with Malaika Mushandu, we learn more about her production company, Malaika Productions and the future plans. She talks about lessons the African communities can harness after watching the Movie, Mirage. The film was powered by a number of well-known faces that include Prudence Katomeni Mbofana, Stewart Sakarombe, Joylene Malenga, Charmaine Mujeri, Voctor Mpofu among others. The production was supported by some heavyweights that include executive producers, Sidney Hambira, Joe Njagu, Taurai Kawara and Eric Witzgall.
Mirage Story: Set amid the turbulent events of Zimbabwe’s historic 2017 “takeover” from Robert Mugabe, Mirage tells the thrilling story of three women’s plot to escape from one of the country’s notorious maximum-security prisons. Tambu, who is serving a five-year sentence for stealing a chicken at her rural home village, hears about her daughter’s ongoing abuse by her own brother and the consequent mental illness of her daughter... Read More (click here).
TR: Firstly let me congratulate you on the nomination of the movie Mirage at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.
MM: Thank you!
I am honoured to be a part of the first ever Zimbabwean film to be nominated by AMAA (Africa Movie Academy Awards)!
TR: When the names of the nominees were about to be revealed during the AMAA awards nominees list, did you have any idea that you might be part of the list and be nominated in at least 3 categories?
MM: In the spirit of honesty, no! (Lol).We first received an email that we were shortlisted for a nomination and that alone for me was enough. To have the film potentially have one aspect stand above everything else was a win for me so I did not bother with trying to fuss about which categories.
When the news came that it was in three sectors one of them being for,’ directing’, I was overwhelmed, humbled and in disbelief at the same time.
I remember keeping the news to myself for a day just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.I checked the website several times until I was satisfied that it was indeed me.
This is not to say I did not trust my own capabilities but it was just because everything went better than I had imagined. I suppose that is what happens when the grace of God covers you.
[ The Nominations: AMAA 2020 AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Chairmaine Mujeri, AMAA 2020 AWARD FOR BEST FIRST FEATURE FILM BY A DIRECTOR Malaika Mushandu & AMAA 2020 AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUNDTRACK. ]
TR: What inspired the production Mirage?
MM: Mirage was written by Virginia Jekanyika (a BBC International Playwriting winner).
Before Mirage I used to read several stories she would write, either plays, short stories for children, film scripts etc. . . . I got my hands on Mirage and I fell in love with it.
The character’s journeys, their back stories all distinctively different but relatable. I grew up in the suburbs rarely visited the rural areas but I could relate to the love, sacrifice and compassion a rural woman (Tambu) had. I understood her point of view though coming from different walks of life.
Mirage (the script) cast light on the plight of women in an African society. It tells the often overlooked narrative of the sacrifices that are expected of women sacrifices that expected demanded and rarely acknowledge or applauded. Mirage is a story that any woman despite status or stature can relate / identify with.
TR: Speaking about the crew, the movie has big names in the film industry like Joe Njagu, Prudence Mbofana to name a few…what did it mean for you working with the Giants of the Zollywood?
MM: I call them the humble Giants… When I thought of it before we started working on the film it was intimidating, however when we set the ball rolling it was smooth sailing.
To date I have never come across a more well accomplished person who is as humble as Prudence. She holds herself with poise and takes direction well.She really is a delight to work with.
I had a month and a half to work with the other cast members as part of our pre-production.We would run over lines and create in-depth back stories for the characters. I did not have that privilege with Prudence.
She came on board two days before we started shooting, so she had to do everything that took others one and a half months in two days. This she did it with no complaints and quite exceptionally.In my mind if she had had the month and a half to work on her craft she too would have been nominated for an award.
For Joe: – In a nutshell Joe is a man who makes things happen. He was a real “fireman” as there were a lot of fires the man had to extinguish during the production that I only got to know of after shoot! He is efficient and moves with stealth. In my view “Zollywood” as you put it has everything it needs to reach new heights.
It is a matter of dedication and the right collaborations that is needed as we have the talent within our borders.
TR: As the director what was your major highlight during the shoot?
MM: I think for every director it is when you visually see what you have imagined come to life and it doing so accurately. When you put in the work with the actresses and give them the freedom to now perform, seeing them express themselves how you imagined and having that performance…
This gives you and the rest of the crew goose bumps because you know from then on that you have a powerful scene captured.
TR: Where were the movie locations?
MM: The shooting of the film was done in Zimbabwe with the major locations being Chikurubi Maximum Prison, Nyanga and World’s View in Nyanga.
TR: One might be curious to know, when did the Malaika Productions came to existence and can you share with us some of your previous productions?
MM: Malaika productions is fairly new. It is a little over a year old and Mirage is the first production.
TR: As a production (Malaika Productions) what are your 2021 plans?
MM: As a production house we have several things lined up.
We plan on venturing into other sectors such as adverts and music. I would go in depth with it all but if 2020 has taught us anything is that we can plan but God has the final say. In that light you will have to wait and see as we complete projects and roll them out.(giggles)
TR: Back to the movie, as an African community what lessons can we draw from the movie?
MM: Mirage as an ensemble film speaks of the challenges and victories women face throughout their lives.
It casts light on the sacrifices that we make and in my mind it lets those (women) who will watch it know that they aren’t alone. I hope it will encourage men to understand women a bit more.
With the movie Mirage I would like to stir up conversations on the plight of women in prisons, the judicial system in regards to some of the laws that might still glorify colonial masters. Lastly for individuals (regardless of how they identify themselves) I hope it ignites self-reflection.
TR: Talking about the African community, with the hype competition in the world of movie industry, what’s your take of the state of the Zollywood movie industry?
MM: 2020 has proven that Zimbabwe has talent and craft to compete on international levels…Gonarezhou, Cook Off & Shaina all being a testimony to that.
I think the key thing to grow the industry further is in collaborations. I saw that power whiles working on Mirage.
◦ Malaika productions ◦ Joe Njagu films ◦ MMX productions ◦ Virginia Jekanyika ◦ Prudence katomeni Mbofana ◦ Gwevedzi
All the above are Zimbabwean power houses that came together to create the first Zimbabwean film to be nominated for the AMAAs, not just in one category but 3.
The marvel that is Mirage was made possible through collaborations.
TR: Recently Mirage was premiered privately, are there any plans of showcasing the movie across the Continent, if yes which countries are you planning to take your film to?
MM: The showcase was exclusively for cast and crew to see their work on the big screen. I think it is important to always value the people you work with and the screening was to show my appreciation to them.
It was also for them to see the end product of their hard work first before the rest of the world did All things equal we are aiming to release the film early next year and have the world premiere then.
We just hope the Covid 19 pandemic will be contained at this time.
TR: Lastly winning the three gongs during the AMAA awards, what will it mean to you as a director and for Zimbabwe.
MM: To me it will be affirmation that I am in the right profession.
For the country I hope it opens a gateway to the international market, as well as have collaborations that stretch across the region, continent and globe.
To have the world continuously checking what Zimbabwe is producing.
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