I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Maliposa last night. I was honoured that Mingeli Palata the creator of the movie invited us to watch. The creative industry in Zambia is small and competitive, but not always healthy competition and good sportsmanship (for lack of a better term).

I have never worked with Mingeli per se but we’ve interacted quite a bit and share a passion for production and the industry in Zambia. Mingeli first told me about Maliposa a few months ago, and even sent me a copy for my opinion. At the time, I was going through my own reflection process – was I too critical of everything? Shouldn’t we be focussed on the fact that people are trying and not berate them for standards (or lack of)? After all, look at the Nigerian film and TV industry – it started a mess, and there still are programmes that are a mess, but it’s also produced really good productions too. And I was starting to believe that the point is to start, regardless.

My feedback at the time was actually it was alright. It was still better than what was currently on our screens and the story was relevant and timely. Maliposa, funded by Ministry of Gender and Community Development, deals with the all too pervasive issue of sexual assault and gender inequity. And it was shot with this blue filter that symbolised the sadness of the issue. But Mingeli was not happy. I understood that too because as a creator, you want to see your vision, as you imagined regardless of what people said. (It’s like how I feel about Love Games season 1 – but I didn’t have the luxury of budget to reshoot it). There were some technical challenges, and Mingeli went back to the drawing board and reshoot the entire thing. And I admire him for sticking to his principles and values regardless of the cost.

So yesterday watching it, was like watching the film for the first time. I do applaud Mingeli and Gardner Media for doing that film because it’s not easy. I’m not a technical person – in terms of camera styles, angles, lighting etc so I won’t speak to that. But from what I do know, the hardest part of doing a film that is funded, and is there to convey a specific message is getting the message right.

You can be excused for thinking that it’s easy to write a script with a message. But the reality is it’s not. There is an art to messaging, and not to toot our own horn (though why not?) but that is something we’re really good at, and it helps that we’ve been doing this for a long time.

Also because I am such a ‘girl power’ fanatic, I was disappointed with the script, and more so when I found out it was written by a woman. However, the only caveat to this statement is that in their defence, they created a 2 hour movie from a 13 part series for TV, so there could be things in the TV series that will strengthen the content. I wonder how many real life stories they draw from, because it’s one thing to read the stats or to read transcripts from court cases or whatever fact based research was done, without talking to the real life people behind the stats, or having gone through the experience yourself, there is a level of authenticity that is missing.

However, I do think a good majority of people will nonetheless enjoy this production – even after the premiere last night, it seemed a success and the Ministry very happy – a happy client is always a good thing! And I do see the show traveling, even outside of Zambia, but as a tv show and nothing more. Great for Gardner Media, not so great for the Ministry and its donors who were trying to address an issue.
Content is an issue for us, us as in creators in Zambia. We’re getting the technical right but when you look at what we’re producing, it’s content that is letting us down. This morning I watched a music video that again, technically looked good (remember I’m not an expert, I’m sure if I showed it to one of my more experienced film/tv/video makers they would pinpoint lighting errors and all sorts!) but for me where it let me down – like so many other good videos before it – was the content and lack of a concept (if there was one, it just wasn’t clear).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think one person has to be good at everything – that’s why we can rely on partnerships, to strengthen where one is weak. I think it’s great we’re getting our industry together and we’re definitely putting out better things than in the past, but let’s still be open and honest about the challenges. This will help us all improve.

I hope you’ll all watch Maliposa, because supporting our own, also helps grow the industry – we need to be hungry for our own content to grow it to the standards we want it to be. And it will happen, I believe it. I really hope I won’t get mistaken for being a hater – too often when we criticize people think it comes from a place of hate, but really I see too many people giving false feedback meaning no one can learn and improve. I just don’t want to be that person – I do want to give honest feedback, but still encourage people to keep doing them – we’re not at the stage where any production (TV/Film/Video) is faultless yet. Just keeping it one hundred.