Can Alex Gwaze Help Zimbabwean Cinema Shine?
20 December 2023
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Cinema has always been at the heart of the Zimbabwean entertainment industry, but the country has thus far failed to make much of an impression on the international stage. Now, leading figures in the sector are attempting to set up systems so it can flourish in the future. Alex Gwaze is at the heart of that, and the Curator for Input Conferences at the European Film Festival Zimbabwe is urging filmmakers to master all aspects of their trade.

Zimbabwean Entertainment Has Cinema at Its Core

Now that the internet has spread throughout Africa, many nations are putting a greater focus on entertainment. In 2023, Zimbabwe’s internet penetration stands at around 35 per cent of the population, but that figure is rising sharply. One of the most popular uses for the internet is online gaming, with casino sites already marketing themselves to players in the country. Many people in the nation enjoy the classics, and online sites offer variations of these such as Auto Roulette and Speed Baccarat. This form of gaming is going to be huge for Zimbabwe, but the movie industry could be just as important.

Zimbabwe is likely to mirror other parts of Africa in terms of internet usage as the online world spreads. In countries like Nigeria, there has been a massive surge in streaming services like Netflix. That has had an impact on the cinema industry, with many Nigerian offerings now available on the platform. With television and movie subscription services thriving around the world, it gives films from other countries outside of the main players a chance to get widely recognised for their work. This means it’s the ideal time for Zimbabwe’s film sector to also start making a name for itself.

One of the most notable things about the Zimbabwean film industry is its evolution over the years. It was initially influenced by the British Colonial Film Unit, which was mainly used as a tool for promoting colonial propaganda in the post-war period. However, it then went on to legitimise a film technique that was geared towards African audiences, in an effort to help promote movies in the region. When Zimbabwe gained independence, the government began to use the film industry for educational purposes, along with highlighting the distinctive culture of the nation. In recent years, film festivals have played a crucial part in helping Zimbabwean cinema progress. Events like the International Images Film Festival for Women and the Zimbabwe International Film Festival have provided platforms for local talents to showcase their work, network with international filmmakers, and gain exposure to diverse cinematic styles.

Who is Alex Gwaze and What is His Mission?

There are many leaders in the film industry in Zimbabwe who want to help ensure it survives and flourishes in the years ahead. Gwaze is one of the main figures at the forefront of this push, and he has various ideas about how to make Zimbabwean cinema sustainable. He’s the curator for the Input Conferences of the European Film Festival Zimbabwe and has been pivotal in bridging Zimbabwean cinema with global narratives.

Gwaze believes that it’s vastly important that filmmakers don’t just focus on one area of their craft but learn all aspects of film. This is the only way that they will be able to produce high-quality work and compete with other countries in world cinema. In recent times, there have been major leaps forward. Indeed, Gwaze noted how the offerings screened at the European Film Festival Zimbabwe were of exceptional quality and showcased the potential of the country on a global stage. The festival is geared towards fostering a cultural exchange between Europe and Zimbabwe, and it often includes masterclasses with renowned filmmakers.

Events like the one that Gwaze heads are essential in providing filmmakers with opportunities for skill-sharing and networking. It brings people from a vast range of cultures and backgrounds together as well, through shared experiences on the screen. The festival has had a huge impact already and has attracted some big names. Recently, Swedish-Iraqi filmmaker Zahavi Sanjavi offered insights into documentary filmmaking, and South African actor Ayanda Makayi discussed the South African film industry.

What Does the Future Hold for Zimbabwean Cinema?

Now is the perfect time to start preparing for a bright future for Zimbabwean film, and there are already some positive signs. Filmmakers from the country are getting opportunities on the national stage, with Tinayeishe Wakatama recently winning the Judges Champion Award at a film festival in Texas.

Now that there are extra efforts being made to improve the overall quality of Zimbabwean film and collaborate with filmmakers from around the world, the industry here is going to be able to create offerings that have a greater chance of success among international audiences. There are new pictures emerging in a range of genres, including science-fiction – a category that hadn’t been explored here until recently.

Streaming services are also likely to play a significant part in the future of Zimbabwean film, as they offer an additional outlet to get content in front of large audiences. Zimbabwe needs to learn from the success of Nollywood in this regard and could even look at the burgeoning scenes in South Africa and Kenya as well. As platforms like Netflix increase their customer base in Zimbabwe, these people will be hungry for local content. The film industry in the country could be poised to benefit from this, and there will be more chances for movies to shoot to worldwide acclaim thanks to the accessibility of streaming services around the globe.

There’s no doubt that Zimbabwean cinema needs more people like Gwaze. He is already helping the sector make giant leaps forward and aligning it with other successful countries. It’s exciting to think how the Zimbabwean film industry will push on in the next few decades.