For the first time in the history of the Malawi film industry, the country made an entry submission at America’s most prestigious movie awards, the Oscars.
Local filmmaker Charles Shemu Joyah, with the help a steering committee comprising players in the industry, set on a path to have Malawi’s representation at the Oscars. The journey started mid last year when the team put together local productions which they felt had the clout to crack it at the top level.
After a vetting exercise by the committee, Joyah’s award-winning movie The Road To Sunrise was selected as the production to lead Malawi’s maiden charge at one of the world’s most coveted trophies in the world of movies.
The results which were released early this year showed that the Malawian failed to make the cut in the category of foreign language films which the movie was competing. The list had movies from Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Mexico and Poland.
To many, the idea of having a Malawian film competing at such a stage was absurd. Questions were probably asked on the mental state of Joyah. This idea was a complete no-no to a majority.
Every journey has to start from somewhere. Just like in this venture, a first step had to be taken. Never mind the outcome, but we are at least assured that by now, in the Oscar corridors they know that there is a country in southern Africa which has able movie producers as well.
In one of our chats with Joyah he told me of the embarrassment he suffered when he went to Cairo when out rightly the locals dismissed the notion that Malawi also has individuals who can produce a movie worth its name.
For someone who has been to many corners of the world, won awards and received numerous recognition for the same cause that must have hurt a lot. That is why his experience at that moment has stuck on him.
It is even nice of him that he is using the same as a motivation which is sparring him to break new grounds to lift the local movie industry as high as possible. Sometimes you need diversity to aid ones advancement.
And in his own admission, Joyah has been very honest: he did not enter the Oscars to win but to create an awareness in that part of the world that Malawians are also capable of producing movies and telling their own stories.
It was probably for this same reason that when the American crew came to produce the current Malawian-inspired hot-selling movie, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, they had to rely mainly on actors from other countries.
If they had enough knowledge about our capacity they would have exercised restraint too on their operational budget by engaging more of the local actors as opposed to outsourcing from lands a far.
It was therefore refreshing to hear that Joyah, inside the week left for a study tour in Germany, hugely thanks to his daring go at the Oscars. The current trip comes after the German ambassador’s first application for a similar opportunity in 2017 was turned down.
Come 2018, the ambassador, mentioned in the application that his movie was submitted for the Oscars and voila! As we speak Joyah is in Germany for the tour which is expected to help him gain more techniques and experience in movie production.
There are plenty with so much potential in various fields in the country. But most of these have made a choice to limit themselves. They lack that courage to be the first for fear of failure. There is only one thing that comes from failure, lessons.
Those who derive shame from failure are not worth inventors. If you have an idea that you strongly believe in, then do not be ashamed to take it to the world, stand by it and defend it. It is always important that if you dare to dream, you should dare try. n