We truly believe that the future for African cinema and African television is the true African story. We truly believe that the only success will come when we as Africans commit ourselves to uplifting ourselves by telling our stories honestly and when we commit ourselves to depicting our people the way they want to be depicted.
1. HONESTY AND INTEGRITY!
We believe that our people want to see themselves on the small screen (and the big screen). But they want to see honest depictions that portray them the way they are, the way they see themselves and the way that they want to be portrayed, not some glorified or glamourized portraits that they can’t even recognize. Some directors become too artistic and end up with characters that we do not know. Our people want to see themselves on screen, they want to see their aunts and their uncles. They want to see their cousins and brothers, they want to see the street where they grew up, they want to see the people they grew up with.
Our people do not want to see some overbloated images of Africans, someone else’s idea of what Blacks are like, of what blacks should behave like. That is why these images that we see in most of our films do not work for me. I see these gangster types and gum-chewing prostitutes and ask myself; “who are these people? Where do they live? We see images that are stupid without reason, foolish to a fault, characters that are meant to be comedic, but they are just buffoonery, just meant to make fun of us.
Our people want to hear themselves in these movies. Language is key. Not some fairy tale imagined way of speaking that sounds romantic to some foreign ear and then is forced upon our actors. Each time actors have to translate on set what has been written by someone else and have to come up with their own lines and the director can’t come back and say to them; “No that does not work!” then it aint it. The language has to be organic, has to be from that community, has to be something that is familiar to everyone/ The language has to be indigenous and original. Has to belong to those people we are trying to portray, even if it is patois and lingua franca or even slang, it has to have originated from that community. Not imposed.
Our people have a way of relating to each other that is based on age, class, relationship, status, rank, familiarity, etc. This is a complex set of relationships that has so many layers it’s not funny. These have to be respected and observed at each level. Father to son, Father to daughter, uncle to nieces and nephews, teacher to student, chief to subject, younger brother to older brother, mother-in-law to daughter-in-law to son-in-law etc etc… These rules are so complex that you need to be a part of this society to understand them and then reflect them on screen. When we started Muvhango 18 years ago, all the creatives, told us that our characters greet a lot, that they knock on doors, they come in, they lotsha, they luba, they do all sorts of things before they talk. We were told that it takes away all the drama. We told them to watch us grow because we understood that our people would embrace these practices because they had never seen themselves portrayed like that, and that’s exactly how they are, how they want to see themselves.
We as African filmmakers have to find a way to portray our people realistically and honestly, because the other races are not interested in portraying us in all our glory, in all our splendour. They are bent on bending our backs and breaking our spirit. The true and honest portrayal of the African is left to us. Let us not betray ourselves!