And talk about sex they did. For the next five days, the group of 14 explored the topic from various angles while on the set of the documentary film, Sex In the City of Harare.
Produced by the International Video Fair, the production seeks to unearth what the average man and woman in Zimbabwe’s capital thinks about issues pertaining to sex and sexuality. In a country where naming parts of the body related to gender, let alone talking about sex itself, in the local languages is generally taboo, the production of the documentary is somewhat of a revolution.
Half way through the filming, anthropologist and technical producer, Susan Pietrzyk, from the United States remarked, “One word is filling my mind: Taboo. But not taboo in the way you might think I mean it. For years and years I’ve heard and read that to talk about sex in African countries is taboo. People just don’t do it’.
And yet the 14 men and women aged between 23 and 54 years whose professions included a soon-to-be radiographer, pastor, personal assistant and journalist among others, did precisely that.
“My ears are getting sore because these 14 people have volumes to say. The reason the word taboo is filling my mind is because it seems what’s taboo is not discussing sex; rather what’s become taboo is to create spaces for people to come together and speak about sex,’ Pietrzyk said.
During the production, the participants looked at issues pertaining to sexuality such as self-awareness and whether sex involves pleasure or pain or both and to what extent. They talked about gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS. And they talked about their sex lives.
Ben Mahaka, who directed the film said he was fascinated by the stories and perspectives of the people who took part.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a group that has sat down and spoken so honestly about sex in Zimbabwe,’ said Mahaka who added that Sex In the City of Harare was a huge step in the right direction.
Pietrzyk concurred, saying “This film project is correcting the way the taboo around sex has been repositioned. These 14 people have embraced this space and they’re making the most of it’.
Sex In the City of Harare is being produced as part of the Zimbabwe Film Practitioners Joint Programme funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Harare. The film is due for release in 2009.