After all the criticism the Zimbabwean government plans to revamp the local film industry, if the recent promises by George Charamba, the Permanent Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity, are anything to go by.
George Charamba recently told a Film Indaba in Harare that the government, through his ministry, was working hard at putting in place the necessary equipment to enable local filmmakers to tell their stories.
He also stressed what was expected from the Zimbabwe International Film and Television School of Southern Africa (ZIFTESSA) as well as from local filmmakers towards the development of a vibrant Zimbabwe film industry.
During the Indaba local filmmakers raised concerns over a number of aspects around an enabling environment with specific areas like limited access to ZTV, government funding for home grown productions and the right to use equipment at government institutions.
The Minister told the filmmakers that the difficulties they currently face – to get broadcasters to air their productions – were soon to be a thing of the past; current efforts to migrate from analogue to digital will pave the way for new television channels.
Going digital will open up more opportunities as government wants to allocate some channels just for home grown films. Opportunities also exist for private channels to be taken up by various corporations.
His major concern was that local filmmakers still produce too few films, especially for television, which poses a serious challenge for the new channels to run full local content programming in sufficient quality and quantity.
The bulk of the ministry’s budget for statutory bodies is directed at Transmedia, a commercial state-owned company that mainly provides signal distribution services for broadcasters in Zimbabwe. Its role is critical and strategic to provide the required infrastructure to accommodate the needs of the many channels created by digitalisation – possibly 20 channels on one frequency. He also stressed that there is urgent need to amend the Broadcasting Act.
The Indaba heard that with these new television channels there will be a need for a levy on foreign films shown on local television channels to raise the requisite revenue for funding local film projects.
On the issue of direct government funding for the film sector, Charamba responded that the authority had provided ZIFTESSA with a budget for the procurement of film equipment and other technical facilities, which will create opportunities for the film sector beyond the needs of students.
Filmmakers were urged to specify (to ZIFTESSA) the type of film equipment that will positively impact the growth of the industry, and which will be affordably accessible.
Responding to the appeal by filmmakers to access 16mm film stock, Charamba said that technology to transfer 16mm film to digital media was now available. His ministry will produce a comprehensive inventory of 16mm film stock before making it available to filmmakers.
He also denied allegations that government does not have funds. “I refuse to accept that government has no funds for the film sector because I believe that the image of Zimbabwe is for public good for which the government should find resources.’
By Martin Chemhere
Screen Africa magazine – May 2012