History of Cinema in ZAMBIA

Historical overview

The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. In the 1980s and 1990s, declining copper prices and a prolonged drought hurt the economy. Elections in 1991 brought an end to one-party rule, but the subsequent vote in 1996 saw blatant harassment of opposition parties. The election in 2001 was marked by administrative problems with three parties filing a legal petition challenging the election of ruling party candidate Levy MWANAWASA. The new president launched a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign in 2002, which resulted in the prosecution of former President Frederick CHILUBA and many of his supporters in late 2003. Opposition parties currently hold a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

History of cinema from 1896-2000

Cinema was introduced in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) by predominantly the British during their colonial occupation. During the late twenties and early thgirties films were shown all over the country in open air cinema's. The movies were mainstream Hollywood productions mostly. The illiterare rural population proofed to be very susceptible to the images shown in the movies. In the socalled coppertbelt (mining area's) young children began wearing cowboy hats and carved wooden pistols to act like their silverscreen heroes. This behavior became more radical when natives began to respond to sex and violence shown on the screen. This triggered a debate about the influence of Hollywood movies to a non western supersticious population. In later years the mobile cinema was introduced in the distant earea's but solely used for educational purposes.

Film attendance in Northern Rhodesia grew rapidly during the 1940s-the same time that the movies reached their peak as an attraction in North America and Britain. Many thousands of Africans were paying a small admission to see films each week. The program typically began with "The African Mirror," a magazine series that showed elements of African life such as first-aid teams at a mine, traditional dancing, and commercial agriculture. This was followed by "The Northern Spotlight," the government-sponsored newsreel, and then British news. Animal cartoons, called kadoli, favored by small children, preceded the main feature, usually a dated or "B" cowboy film or occasionally a Superman film.

A film show in a remote rural area was a special event, since mobile cinemas did not reach a given village or town much more often than once or twice a year in the 1940s or once a month in the 1950s. The entertainment began with the arrival of the van, and crowds began to assemble in the afternoon to watch and assist in setting up the projector and screen, eventually numbering from one hundred to three thousand people. Before the film show itself, members of the mobile cinema staff gave educational talks illustrated with film strips on topics like malaria eradication or household hygiene.

Due to the perceived relation between film images and violent behavior all films were censored and about half of them actually cut short. Some films were totally banned from the African audience.

In 1957 the first multi racial theatre was opened in Lusaka, meaning ordinary people could now enjoy films with wider themes than just Hollywood entertainment. Still censorship rules were applied (at the door!) to African locals, mainly stimulated by the censors of the catholic church.

independence in 1964 meant a free Zambia but the film industry had no government priority whatsoever. Nowadays there is practically no film industry in the country, only a few film-producing companies and no significant filmmakers. ZNBC (Zambian National Broadcasting Company), Zambia Information service (also government owned) and some private firms occasionally produce TV plays and documentaries but no feature films. There are a number of video-production companies and the locals are cinema lovers, with foreign films attracting the majority of the youth parralel to the old traditions described earlier. The interest has shifted to action loaded movies and maretial art films.

In 1999, The Zambian independent film company, Ambush Productions Ltd, was formed. They have recently completed their first feature documentary "Choka!" (Get lost!) nominated twice by the International Documentary Association in Los Angeles for Most Distinguished Feature and the Pare Lorentz Award for social activism and lyricism in film. It is the only feature of some length to come out of Zambia up unitl today.

Films are preserved in the National Archives of Zambia, owning just over two hundred reels it is small but rather lenghty (in hours of play) collection. The audio-visual is sourced from the public media organization; the Southern Africa Broadcasting Services (now non-extistent), the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation ( ZNBC) and the Zambia Information Services (ZIS).

"Imiti Ikula" (2000) is a 26 minutes documentary about the youth on the streets of Lusaka was directed and produced by Sampa Kangwa and Simon Wilkie.

In 2002 the first ever Zambia International Film Festival was held in Lusaka. A movie with some Zambian influence is "Triads, Yardies and Onion Bhajees!". London based Zambian film producer and actor, Manish Patel is set to shine at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, with his first film, "Triads, Yardies and Onion Bhajees!". This the only film to get an official selection from Britain for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival 2003. The film, which is based on Manish Patel's novel 'The Stolen Shiva' is a contender for the Palme d'Or Prize in Cannes. The film is directed by Sarjit Bains.

Tikambe ("Let's Talk About It", 2004), a Zambian documentary directed by Carol Duffy Clay, has been awarded the Silver Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival for its portrayal of a Zambian woman struggling to live positively with HIV and AIDS. Tikambe consists of two stories. The first one (the story that won the award) revolves around Harriet, a widow suffering from AIDS who has been rejected by her family. The second story in the documentary is about a couple that are both living positively with HIV. The total length of the film is 42 minutes.

Currently Zambia is a long way from having a film infrastructure. The government stresses a greater influence of the Broadcasting companies on the production of feature films. Filmmakers from Zambia are inclined to go abroad due to the lack of government support. The one issue which is supported is how to prevent AIDS by means of the Seventh Art. The next Zambia International Film Festival (which has yet to be sheduled) could be the platform for the qcuisition of funding and collaboration with Western countries.

Cinema links from ZAMBIA

Lowdown Online magazine includes cinematic information
Zambia online Gateway to Zambia

© Copyright 2001-2009 Filmbirth.com All Rights Reserved.