Cinematic fact and the film services industry: production contexts and contexts of production in Zimbabwe (1980-2016)
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The thesis is an exploration of the film services industry in Zimbabwe. It attempts to explore the nature of skills, infrastructure and organisational networks exploited in the production of film and video in Zimbabwe. The study is situated within film services (Goldsmith and O’Regan, 2005; Goldsmith et al, 2010) and political economy frameworks which acknowledge and critique the roles of multiple players and services in the film production value chain. The study proposes and applies a holistic cinematic-fact analysis of the film industry’s components rather than the content or the filmic fact (Stam et al, 1992). Four purposively selected films, King Solomon’s Mines, Everyone’s Child, Tanyaradzwa and Sinners? are analysed to establish the composition of film services employed in their production. The different socio-economic contexts in which the films were created supposedly had an influence on the film services and ultimately, on the aesthetic norms and themes of the narratives. The study is also informed by political and shadow economy theories, attempting to link socio-economic and political circumstances to the content of the films. Data for the study was collected using mainly the interview method as well as collection of archival materials. Filmmakers purposively sampled for their roles in the four productions were interviewed about their experiences on the film sets. Policy-makers with a bearing on the functioning of the film industry were also selected, either purposively or through snowball sampling, and interviewed to provide qualitative data about the nature of the film services industry in Zimbabwe. Thematic analysis and hermeneutics of interpretation were used to analyse the data. The study found out that film production in Zimbabwe, has transformed from an era of being modelled as a formal enterprise with clear, specialised roles to one that is constituted as a shadow economy (Lobato, 2012) which has no clear structures and does not depend on specialised film services. The ‘industry’ now uses a ‘guesswork’ approach to making film. This has had a net effect of creating a new genre of film whose building blocks are not traditionally associated with the classical film medium. This genre, dubbed the drasofi (dramma, soapie, film) is a genre of convenience borne out of the difficult circumstances that filmmakers and other enterprises operate under in Zimbabwe. Though the typical film produced in this set-up may be of poor aesthetic quality, it is one borne out of a truly indigenous and artistic endeavour; a trashy but auterist narrative.