Jamal Kishuli: Shaping up to ship his skills back home

Friday May 10 2019


Tanzanian-born university graduate Jamal Kishuli has never been afraid of not knowing. With a laser-sharp focus on becoming a skilled actor and TV and film producer, coupled with a deep love for his country, all of Kishuli’s steps towards living his dreams are closer as a MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy student.

As the eldest of three children, and an avid TV series consumer at a young age in his hometown of Arusha, Kishuli remembers the moment he decided he wanted to work in film and television.

“It goes all the way back - I think I was in class 4 - there was this TV series from the Philippines ‘The Promise’,” he explains. “[From that moment on] I was not even interested in directing or producing, I just wanted to be an actor.”

When he went to university, however, everything changed. Soon after finishing his A levels, the University of Dar es Salaam introduced a Bachelor of Film and TV Studies degree for the very first time. He jumped at the chance and enrolled for the course, but quickly realised that he knew nothing about the profession he chose, despite the illuminating desire to be in it.

“I didn’t know the difference between theatre and film. At that time in our country, especially the place where I grew up, in Arusha, artists are not [in] theatre or acting or [in] poetry, so I wasn’t exposed. That’s where my journey started,” he speaks while in Nairobi.

Kishuli continues to work closer to his dreams as a MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy student, where he is among the first to get the chance to learn from the best within the industry, and from a one-of-a-kind curriculum meticulously designed for Africa’s creative film and TV industry.

His family has also been supportive ever since finding out that he had been chosen to join the academy from over 3 000 entries from East, West and Southern Africa. Kishuli’s father was however not convinced by his choice to study film at first.

“To go for film especially in an industry like Tanzania [is] always a risk,” Kishuli explains.

“Even my father couldn’t tell his close friends that I’m taking film but there was a time where he came to accept [it]. He can now tell [his friends] that his son is a filmmaker. Even my mum was happy.”

Tanzania has a booming local TV and film industry, which means that “Bongo films” can be found in almost every household, and “Bongo flavour” blasts on radio at any given moment.

There is nevertheless a huge culture of piracy within the industry. The industry’s mostly unstructured nature also makes it murky terrain for royalties and a steady income for those working within it.

“For me, our industry has the audience, [but it’s] going down because of piracy. The industry is promising if we find a better distribution channel,” says Kishuli. This is partly what drives him towards learning about film, acting and TV production at the academy, and channelling those skills back to his home country’s creative industry.

Getting accustomed to the deadlines and demands from the academy has been a challenge for Kishuli, but it hasn’t deterred him. Though he may not be too far from home as the academy is in Nairobi, being out of his comfort zone and away from family has been an adjustment. Nevertheless, the high expectations he has for himself and what he plans to do for his country’s creative film and TV industry still stand.

“I know that it’s a long journey but I’m not going anywhere. Tanzania is my country and there is a future [there]. It’s been a great experience for me,” says Kishuli.