Tanzania: Films Are Not Only Made for Festival Competitions

One of the short films screened, at the just-ended Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) was "Nani Kama Mama" (No One Like Mother).

It is one of those films, which was not in competition but screened as a "work-in-progress", partly to get a reaction from a live audience. The intention is to make a full length drama feature, providing funds can be obtained, at a later date.

This 13-minutes production, tells the story about poverty and street justice locally. It combines an old local fairy-tale about a monster and a little boy, with that of Pesambili, who lives in poverty and is seeking money to save his sick mother.

Imelda Munyaga plays the role of the said mother, who told the 'Daily News' after its screening, at the ZIFF, playing this role really touched her. "It's not just because of the relationship depicted between this mother and her son" she maintains but also "the extremely difficult life they are living.

Besides these difficulties, it can be seen that they have been given a cold shoulder by other members of the community and even their extended family." Added to this, the mother is very sick and her son, played by Dominic Mushi, fails to get any kind of assistance from friends or close family members.

This meant he couldn't buy vital medication for his mother. The apathy they had to endure was even shown by the sick mother's brother, who refused to give his nephew any financial assistance, towards buying her medicine.

The viewer is given the impression that relatives want Mama Pesambili to passaway. That way they will be able to sell her house, which would provide them with more money to continue living their lavish life-styles. It is also evident that the mother's late husband had left a lot of wealth, when he passed away.

This was quickly taken by members of his family and squandered away. This is another point that has really touched Munyaga, especially when the son resorted to taking someone's money, when the opportunity was available, to get medicine for the single parent that he has left.

What also hurt her very much was to see how the son ended-up, at the hands of mob justice. Knowing such actions are quite prevalent within this society disturbs her, who only hopes watching the film would help change people's attitude to mob justice.

This way people would stop taking a widow's wealth away, after their spouse had passed-away. Instead, she hoped, those able would help others less fortunate when they are in need.

"Such actions are a contradiction and have drifted away from what used to be basic African tradition, of helping each other. Such an incident actually happened in Temeke District of Dar es Salaam," she said not hiding her displeasure from the expression on her face.

In essence, all of the above is only one of the stories being shown within this film, Directed by Judith Albrecht, which Munyaga referred to as being a modern aspect of local society. However, there is also another dimension, where a small boy saves his people from a monster.

This second story is being told by a young man within the film, to a group of children. While running here and there looking for help to save his mother's life, Pesambili passed this place where the story was being told.

From this encounter he gained courage to continue looking for money to buy the most needed medicine. The point of telling these two stories side-by-side is to give the son courage to continue, according to Munyaga.

She also said that the plan is to take this production to the level of a feature drama, for which a full script would be written. Together with other former student colleagues, from the Bagamoyo College of Arts (TaSuBa) last year, she had provided an idea for a story, out of which two were chosen.

That is the one about the son and his sick mother, while the other a local traditional tale of the small boy being courageous enough to rid the community of a monster. When asked for his attraction to playing the role of Pesambili, Mushi simply said he saw it as something good to do, especially with it being a true story. His only regret was it not being a full length feature drama. Similar sentiments were expressed by Simplest Bernard, who plays the role of the storyteller.

It was him, who explained to the 'Daily News' that the idea actually came out of a workshop last year, when they were finishing their course at TaSuBa. The Goethe Institut, here in Dar es Salaam, was responsible for supporting Albrecht and her five crew members work-out the logistics, which resulted in the making of this film.

That being the case it was necessary to hear what the Institute's Cultural Programme Officer, Daniel Sempeho, had to say towards getting a better understanding of the reasons behind making this film.

According to him the team of six had come from Germany with a big interest in real and mythical local stories. Albrecht, an anthropologist, was trying to find a parallel between the two groups of stories. Sempeho simply says the "big deal", which brought these researchers here is the preservations of oral stories.

They use the approach of film as a means to document their findings. "For Tanzania it is a film that actually shows part of the local oral traditions, which some do not know and also some of the dynamics in local society.

It also shows issues people face, the driving force behind making certain decisions and their consequences," he added. After the screening at the ZIFF last week, "Nani Kama Mama" will continue being submitted to other festivals, he said.

Towards the end of last year, when it had just finished it was premiered, at the Goethe Institut on one of their regular Thursday screening evenings, to an audience of over 100. Now they intend screening it again in the coming weeks. Maybe this may help build a greater interest in this film, to the point of providing the funds for it to be made into a full length drama feature.

Source: Tanzania Daily News.

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