The year 2021 will be remembered as one that saw the rise of the movie industry in Malawi. Though the industry has been making steady progress over the years, it was 2021 that movie makers and producers seriously showed their prowess to produce good quality movies and hold red carpet premieres for them, a clear indication that time for business as usual was over.
Movies done in English and vernacular were produced much to the delight of local movie lovers.
Fatsani: A Tale of Survival
The movie Fatsani: A Tale of Survival is probably the most celebrated, popular and well-known movie that Malawi has ever witnessed. Highly promoted by its directors, Malawians got to know about its existence even before some had the opportunity to see it during its premieres that took place before in Lilongwe and Blantyre. During its Lilongwe premiere attended by the whos and who of society on April 30, the movie made history as the first movie to have a sold out drive event at Malawi Square. Later the movie was also premiered at Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre attended by Prophet Shepherd Bushiri among other guests.
The movie was further pushed into limelight after its lead actress was nominated for the African Movie Academy Awards (Amaas) in the new actress category. Though she did not win the award, her nomination was a stamp of approval that the movie industry was making progress. Further to that the movie director Gift Sukez Sukali won an award as Best Film Director during the 2021 Southern Africa Award at Sotambe International Film and Arts Festival in Zambia.
About the movie, Sukali said: “The movie is about realities in our country, the struggles that people go through especially the girl child just to survive.”
As we enter the New Year 2022, the movie stands a chance of getting nominated for the Oscars after the local committee submitted it to the Oscar’s organisers for consideration.
On August 27 and 28, Malawians in Lilongwe and Blantyre were treated to yet another movie premiere of a local production called Highbrow. The movie, loosely based on the infamous government corruption scandal dubbed Cashgate, the story follows the life of a flamboyant budget director as his life gets entangled with corruption, women and politics.
Its director Chawezi Munthali said though the movie was inspired by Cashgate, the storyline differed in other aspects.
“I wanted to use a familiar story as an inspiration to entertain Malawians,” he said.
Apart from the local premiere, the movie was also screened in the United States of America and plans are underway to have premiered in other European countries.
Lilongwe and Mzuzu were in 2021 treated to a movie by female producer Cathreen Mlenga titled Sowing Seeds. Based on women empowerment and overcoming obstacles in life, the movie was recognised internationally following its nomination as Best feature Film at the Sotambe Sotambe Film festival. It, however did not win the award.
Reacting to the nomination then, movie producer Mlenga said: “I have great confidence in the film. The actors did a very good job and so did the technical guys. We received very positive feedback here in Malawi when it was screened and that makes me believe that the film will do well beyond the borders as well.”
All We Have Is Us
The local movie by Ashukile Mwakisulu was probably one of the most ambitious having first premiered in the United States of America, AMC Movie Theatre in South Bend, Indiana. Later the movie was premiered in Malawi before a mammoth crowd proving that locals are embracing local movie productions.
“The movie was shot around Blantyre and Chiradzulu between August, 2019 and February, 2020. We had a cast of 25 actors and a crew of 12 all Malawians with no formal training in acting. The film was mainly funded by well-wishers including Malawians of good will in the diaspora. As you would reckon, the finances could not be enough for the budget of the movie as anticipated, but we had to do with what we got and for that we are eternally grateful to those who assisted us,” said Mwakisulu in an interview with Society after the US premiere.
Officially unveiled on November 26 at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe, Atsikana is a movie addressing gender-based violence and human trafficking issues.
Lead actress Daina Zakochera told Society that the movie is aimed at helping government deal with the two issues that are now a cause for worry.
I believe together we have the power to end GBV and human trafficking in the country because these are some of the serious issues affecting girls and women. I am excited to launch Atsikana because it is part of the efforts aimed at addressing these issues,” said Zakochera.
Despite registering such tremendous progress, the movie industry has been accused mainly of just launching the movies in premieres then keeping them to themselves. Many have accused the producers of making too much noise without making the movies available to the larger audience. However, the producers say they are still looking at ways of distributing the movies in a way that can guarantee them profit in the face of heavy piracy in Malawi.
The movie industry has seen some significant contribution from the corporate industry. The premieres of Highbrow movie were sponsored by Nico Holdings to the tune of K10 million.
Renowned preacher Prophet Shepherd Bushiri also gave Fatsani movie producers K20 million for the promotion of the movie. Bushiri said he had made the donation to promote the local creative industry. On its part, the Filmmakers Association of Malawi made various wins in the year 2021. They included deals with venue owners to host movie premieres regularly, trainings and workshops for actors and producers, among other things. The association also signed an agreement with one of the country’s electronics company HiFi Electronics. Under the agreement, Fama members can access film production equipment and accessories at a 10 percent discount.