The future of Zimbabwean film and television

Film | By Tamuka Mtengwa, Photographer | 29 April 2013

It is an unequivocal fact that Zimbabwean television producers endeavor to up their game where television production is concerned, moreso, as there is an endless pool of inspiration for stories. However, the current state of limbo of the Zimbabwean TV industry casts a forlorn shadow compared to the runaway success of legends like Safirio Madzikatire who have proven to be a difficult act to follow thus far, despite the many riveting scripts on the table. Safirio Madzikatire’s all-time favorite, Mukadota family comedy sitcom had more viewership than popular 80s television series like “The A Team” and “Knight Rider” which proves that managed well, Zimbabwe’s television has great potential.

The solution to the sluggish state of local television programming is complex. Regardless, commercial viability remains the most critical aspect in this equation. The greatest talent is drawn to the most lucrative pursuits. As such, incentivizing new and existing players in the field of television broadcasting will create the competition needed to come up with worthwhile programmes. The corporate sector needs to be the midwife of this critical process to bring back the quality programming Zimbabwean audiences deserve.

The endorsement of a 75% local content quota might have been ambitious but possible if the right factors were in place. Here is why. A number of television stations bound to produce high levels of local content would establish a competitive television industry. Further, television programmes which attract the highest level of advertising will be essentially better rewarded than those which do not stimulate the public interest, creating a platform where mediocrity will be regulated. As such, institutions that provide the technical know-how would either re-invent themselves or emerge, providing relevant instruction in the key areas of entertainment technology. In retrospect, cultural products could be exported and realise greater growth for the industry leading to job creation and other industrial spin offs.

There is folly in following the Hollywood or any other television or film production model. Zimbabwe has many stories to tell, with material available from its past and present and future. South Africa has advanced film production capabilities and its technical experts are considered to be one of the best in the world. They are however blighted by the fact that their local productions are struggling to grasp the depth of South African culture and at the same time largely ignored as a result of vested interests in the Hollywood narrative.