There are similarities between the Nigerian popular film industry “Nollywood” and our home-grown Bongo movies, which include how witchcraft plays a considerable role in our lives.
A recent exchange on social media platforms reminded us of this fact when an anonymous user posted that a Multiplex South Africa operator had lost ground to the Chinese operator ostensibly because “they give us what we can identify with”.
In the view of anonymous posting, the South African operator remained with nothing but the English Premier League.
It got me thinking on what are the things that Tanzanian viewers say with confidence, and that we identify with at the box office? What is the meaning of entertainment – and, as a consequence: what yardstick should we use to measure what is successful entertainment content?
These are contentious questions no doubt… And there are no simple answers to them, no silver bullet.
However, a non-structured research by observation would show that the stuff that makes many Tanzanians tick are love stories in which the beautiful but poor village girl finally gets the rich returnee from the West (who must own a Range Rover Sport).
Such sob stories include the poor handsome guy who somehow defies all odds and wins the stunning village beauty, leaving the rich-pot-bellied son of a billionaire drowning in the ocean of sorrow (with his Range Rover Sport).
From the perspective of that anonymous posting, these are the stories that make one tick. Possibly, this also explains why socialites – famous for doing very little other than exposing some flesh and numerous flings – are top of the food chain when it comes to casting.
Our very own Stephen Kanumba was the subject of much heartbreak by hundreds of many hopeful admirers – and virtually died in one of those. We continue to tell our daughters that love conquers all. Well, I don’t really know about that!
We are captives of this narrative – and, because of that, we have no time for entertainment as brought to us by the high priests of entertainment in Hollywood…
Unless it feeds into our fantasy – which includes the most beautiful girl/handsome guy, or the komandoo who kills everyone and plants a national flag next to their bodies.
In many ways, our world view is shaped by these love or komandoo stories that are translated word for word, complete with “Oohs and Aahs” that give the impression we are re-living the stories.
From a personal perspective – and, speaking as a commentator on social issues – I have a problem with grandmothers, mothers, their daughters and daughters-in-law being glued to the make-believe scenes of these South American, Nigerian and Bongo movies.
They are make-believe because we know that reality does not work like this. The young girls we indoctrinate begin living their lives for men’s satisfaction earlier than should be the ideal. They begin to look up to Mganga kutoka Sumbawanga (traditional healer from Sumbawanga) because that’s what these make-believers say.
Our young and not-so-young actors begin to live this make-believe world in which they are stars off-screen, like they are on our low-budget movies.
However, no one in their right mind would be against low-budget movies – let alone, Bongo movies creating jobs for us.
However, it seems that doing a good job of movies production should include doing not just movies where sobs and heart throbs happen, but also movies that teach appropriate behavioural, skills, thinking outside the box, trails of where we come from, thrills that don’t focus on bedroom affairs and sporting prowess – among others.
It is, therefore, not surprising that our DJs are celebrities, and that they all the time post about Kim Kardashian and other global celebrities while selling falsified narratives of how big our celebrities are. How relevant is Kim Kardashian to a young Tanzanian in Songea, or the number of bedrooms in Drakes palatial home that we show?
There is enough room for creativity that can become global brands. But, we must do things that are truly Tanzanian – be they in music or the movies. This pretext to globalism while we are village tyrants just won’t cut it.