Joyce Mhango-Chavula has become a household name after putting Malawi on the map. She won the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (Amvca) held in Lagos, Nigeria. She is an ambitious woman who has her eyes set on making more movies in the country and to transfer her skills to others. Every Woman caught up with the award winner to learn more.
Watching professionals at work on the screen, film acting looks easy, because it so closely resembles what happens in real life. Just as good dialogue in playwriting or screenwriting bears little resemblance to the way that conversations actually take place in the everyday world, good acting-for the stage or the screen involves an enormous amount of pretense to produce results that seem natural.
Joyce Mhango-Chavula has to grapple with convincing film watchers to associate her acting with the realities of her life.
She admits that it takes hard work, dedication and so much concentration, in particular when she has to combine her roles of an actor, film maker, playwright and also director of Rising Choreos Theatre and Entertainment.
Her latest film production, Lilongwe, attested to her commitment recently when she won the continental award for Best Southern Africa Film category, at the fourth edition of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (Amvca) held in Lagos, Nigeria.
Winning an ward is a rare recognition in the movie industry as it proves the high quality of a production as well as the admiration of colleagues in standing above other talents.
But how did our Malawian woman beat the many talents on the African continent to win the accolade?
It has been a long journey for Joyce, having started acting in her secondary school days, she says, through the Association for Teaching English in Malawi (Atem).
Years later, Joyce joined a local drama group called Reformation Theatre.
“That was when I really fell in love with the craft,” says the mother of an eight-year-old daughter.
She further worked with the then Alabama Theatre, in her early acting days.
In 2009, she founded Rising Choreos. She points out that she has written and directed plays, including Well Calculated, No More Tears, Tonthola, The Return and lately the award-winning Lilongwe.
The seasoned actress has also featured in a number of local films such as Shemu Joyah’s The Last Fishing Boat and Tawonga Nkhonjera’s Bella.
In 2012, she exported her talent to join actors and actresses in Nollywood, Nigeria on two other films; Reflections and Kamara Tree.
Just like all other things in life, her journey in acting has not been without challenges.
The biggest, according to the award winner, is that she trades in an industry with low women representation.
However, she says she looks at the gender imbalance in the industry as an advantage to be the voice of the voiceless.
“I want young girls to see me and believe they can make a living out of art. That is what pushes me to still stand strong in the industry,” she says.
Apart from that, Joyce points at lack of serious investment in film making as another challenge.
“Meanwhile, I will continue to work hard and maybe someday, someone will pay attention and see the creative industry as one that is worth investing in,” says the Skyway College business studies graduate.
She does not fall short of mentioning that the award for Best Southern Africa Film Category is a big push and that she is looking forward to greater opportunities because of it.
Lilongwe is a story of a young woman, a professional prostitute that has three children from three different men.
She has a decent day job, but her cashcow are the married men she sleeps with.
The climax of the film is when she seduces and falls in love with a foreign married man who is in Lilongwe on duty and when his wife later comes to visit, hell breaks loose as Lilongwe’s past comes back to haunt her.
“The inspiration came from a Nigerian writer when he visited Lilongwe to make a film. I decided to do a film concerning women whose circumstances force them into prostitution,” says the actress when asked what inspired her to write and produce Lilongwe.
Lilongwe competed against Ayanda, a South African film by Sara Blecher and Tell Me Sweet Something by Akin Omotoso from Nigeria when it won Amvca’s best movie for southern Africa.
Joyce also holds a local best actress award and was also named youth ambassador by a local youth organisation. She says this is her first international award.
Asked what advice she would give to up-and-coming actors, Joyce says: “Success is a process and there are no short-cuts to get to that stage. Know what you want and take steps towards achieving it. It has been such an adventure for me to get here.
“It has been challenging, but exciting; risky, but worth it. It involves falling down many times, but to keep rising up. Passion is what really drives me and above it all, God has been so faithful.”
Going forward, Joyce would like to produce more films.
“I would like to see Africa and the world talking about Malawian creative works the same way we do about other countries’ creative works.
“It is my dream to have a full production house in the near future for Rising Choreos and use it as a platform to train others,” she says.
She proudly boasts about being married to her best friend, the father of her daughter, who is supportive of her.