It is the dream of almost every movie creator across the world to get recognition on the biggest film platforms or receive the most coveted awards the industry has to offer.
Globally, such an honour comes when one gets his/her name imprinted on America’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, popularly known as Academy Awards or simply the Oscars.
Founded in 1927, the Oscar Awards is the world’s preeminent movie-related organisation, comprising more than 9 000 accomplished individuals working in cinema, according the organisation’s website www.oscars.org.
Reads the website: “We recognise and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures.”
For three years now, Malawi has been coveting the Oscar Awards with the hope of making a breakthrough on this prestigious global stage. Through a local establishment, Malawi Oscars Selection Committee, filmmakers are courted to participate in the awards, especially in the international feature film category.
An international feature film is defined as a feature length motion picture (over 40 minutes long) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track. Animated and documentary feature films are also permitted.
Some of the requirements for a submission to be considered are that the film must be released in Malawi and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theatre for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.
But since the establishment of the committee, Malawi has only managed to send a submission once in 2019 when it entered the competition with Charles Shemu Joyah’s movie The Road To Sunrise. Ironically, Joyah also heads the local Oscars committee.
He said: “We have only participated once. Last year we received one submission, but the quality was not very good. So, we did not proceed to submit it to the academy. However, this year we have several good films that have come out and I am hopeful that we will be able to send one.”
Each country is only permitted to send one submission. And although Malawi’s chances of making the grade are distant, Joyah still maintains that participating in the awards has far-reaching long-term benefits.
“You participate in the Oscars not to win, but to get exposure and recognition in the world film industry. The benefits of that recognition are plenty. The benefits are long-term, but to get those benefits we need to start now,” he said.
The filmmaker said there are certain basic standards that Malawian movie creators have to attain in terms of picture and sound quality. He said it is his wish that Malawian films should at least be acceptable and not disqualified at the first stage.
Joyah said: “If we meet these standards, it means we have already achieved something. It is very important that we continue trying to find all means to give exposure to our young film industry.
“We may not win an Oscar, but we have talented actors who can hold their own against the best.”
Film creator Ashukile Mwakisulu admits that Malawi has indeed minimal chances of making an impact at such a stage, but says the country needs to keep submitting movies there as the film industry is trying to get off the ground.
“I have never participated before. I have thought about it though and I would have loved if my film All We Have Is Us was submitted there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet some criteria since it was mostly done in English,” he said.
Another reputable filmmaker Flora Suya said it is every film creator’s dream to have his/her name make a headline on the Oscars platform.
“No matter how long the road seems to be, but such efforts will bear fruits one day. The requirements on their platform are high. So, as we strive to attain that, our industry will also be gaining,” she said.
Regionally, several Malawian film creators have managed to earn recognition by winning several awards. Names such as Joyce Mhango-Chavula, Suya and Joya won at the African Movie Choice Awards(AMCVA).
In the 100 plus years of the Academy Awards’ existence, only three African films have won an Oscar and two of those were not even made by Africans. Still, for all purposes and intent, the Malawi film industry continues to chase the Oscar dream which now looks as distant as the sun.