Women pushing forward the film industry

Tuesday August 6 2019

Yvonne chakachaka having a light moment with

Yvonne chakachaka having a light moment with ZIFF board chairperson Thabit Kombo and t Mrs Kombo (Left) and other participants who attended the event. PHOTO | SALOME GREGORY 

By Salome Gregory

Gone are the days where most of African communities believed there were professions meant only for men. As a result boys were groomed to get better chances in some careers.

With globalization and campaigns to empower women and girl child things have changed and women are taking chances in different careers. Just last month, The Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) themed ‘‘The New Dawn’’ ended and left majority of women with skills on film making and other tricks around films industry in general.

Woman interviewed different women on their roles and contributions in pushing forward the film industry in the world. From different master classes on films during ZIFF, women had an opportunity to learn and share experiences in the film industry as well as exploring the film techniques through the master classes.

Firdoze Bulbulia, the ZIFF Festival Director says, the film training was intensive and very carefully prepared by professional film trainers and academics. They ensured that the training would be significant and relevant for the film students, and other stakeholders in the film industry.

She said, from ZIFF MediaLab to animation and arts classes, actors workshop for those who wanted to be DJ’s, film writers and film makers, music workshop, script writing and production, legal perspective in films with regards to contracts, labour law and copyright and theory of African cinema, women and other film stakeholders had an opportunity to benefit in different aspects.

“ZIFF 2019 was a platform for unique master class and women had chances to learn more. there was also a networking event for women with musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka where a lot on film development and exchange of contacts took place,” says Bulbulia.


She says, in film making women had learnt that in can take more than ten years for a film to be completed. Each film has to go through script, pre-production, production, post-production, marketing and distribution.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka was among the panellist at the film pitching sessions. She says, through the ZIFF Film Academy, she managed to come across Zawadi’s story and was so moved by it.

Zawadi is a true story based on a short film by a Film Maker based in Zanzibar. Her name is Zawadi Alphonce,37, a married woman and a mother of four children. Zawadi tells her personal experience as a woman in the film industry in Zanzibar. Her story won the first place among other 7 films made by students at ZIFF Film Academy.

For the time she spent in Zanzibar she has realized a lot of talents among women and youths and challenged governments in Africa to give creative industry same priorities given to other sectors like health, education among others.

“Zawadi story’s shows the need to create room for growth of the industry. African countries have been asked to give creative industry same priorities given to other sectors to create room for growth of the industry as they have a role to play in embracing our culture and art which identifies different origin of a specific nation.

She says, the time to question why women are behind compared to men should be left behind and the question should be how the African governments can strengthen ways of widening opportunities to people in the creative industry for them to also get opportunities.

However she says, women are mothers, wives, care givers, house keepers have a lot of responsibilities to attend to thus the need for community support to enable them to manage everything at ago.

Commenting on the film workshops at ZIFF Zawadi says, through film workshops she was able to share her story with the world at ZIFF. She learned the importance of people doing films that are closely related to their communities as the only way of making a story stronger.

“Zawadi won because it is a true story and it is something affecting majority of women in the film industry in Zanzibar. Majority of Zanzibar community does not see if people can make money out of films. So letting people especially women take path in this field is a challenge,” says Zawadi.

Adding to that she says, her husband is another challenge as he is not ready to support her while attending different opportunities in the film industry. As a result she ends up staying at home even when she has to go for shooting.

Dr Lizelle Bisschoff is a researcher and curator of African film. She holds a PhD in African cinema from the University of Stirling in Scotland, in which she researched the role of women in African film.

During ZIFF she conducted a workshop on Theory of African Cinema and she was among other three juries in the Feature Film jury category. She also announced the Bronze Dhow Award as well as the European African film festivals award to Subira film directed by Sippy Chadha from Kenya on the award ceremony.

The film was directed by a female director. Commenting on the film Bisschoff says, the bronze dhow goes to a beautifully filmed feature from the opening scene to the very last leap. The rich cinematography, vibrant colours and stunning close-ups fill the screen as the audience is transported to a traditional village where a spirited young girl is determined to fulfil her dreams.

“The images are breath-taking, and the protagonist is captivating and relatable. She is the expression of so many young women who navigate complex lives in similar settings from arranged marriages, polygamy, inter-generational tensions, traditional values and the struggle for self-expression,” says Bisschoff.

Palesa Mashao is a 4th year Film and Television student at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. She is one of the female students who attended a master class by Dr Bisschoff.

She says, with Dr Bisschoff they talked about African cinema as whole, for instance, the history of South African cinema and where it is now. They talked about Bongo films and also had an engaging conversation on the challenges that the women in Bongo film industry is facing.

“I personally loved this as African cinema is not necessarily included within the film school education and that is one of the reasons why we need to decolonise the system and start learning about films which were made by our own African women storytellers,” says Mashao.

Adding to that she says, while in Zanzibar, she became the film director of Zawadi. She is honoured to have directed such a beautiful, true and authentic African story.

“I learned quite a lot in terms of filmmaking and as person in general. I really learned quite a few basic tricks when it comes to meditating. Every day morning before a master class, we used to have a meditation session just to keep us relaxed and focused for whatever we were about to learn in the day,” she adds.

She says, since then she has been incorporating what she learned while in her daily routine to keep her rooted and focused on her inner self. When it comes to filmmaking, she has learnt that teamwork is important

“A good film takes time to produce. One last thing I have learnt as a woman is that we should not wait till we have huge cameras and perfect sound in order to tell a story through filmmaking. You can just use your phone to shoot that film because if you choose to wait for the day you have all the equipment then you might wait forever,” says Mashao.

Among other women experts who conducted workshops at ZIFF are Shaai’sta Bulbulia who was on the legal side and talked about contracts, labour law, copyright. Mahgan Farhang, an animator from Iran, Elizabeth Castle an artist from South Africa who took ZIFF goers to the power of mediation through the Peace In-Peace Out methodology. Others are Sannette Naeyé MediaLab and Cèzanne den Breejen VR and AR Assistant Boldly-XR under Media Lab.