The year 2017, saw two remarkable movies released in Malawi. Both movies were purely done and produced locally. The movies also featured lots of Malawian talent.
They are the Road to Sun Rise by Shemu Joyah and The Town Monger by Kufewa Acrobatics.
While Shemu Joyah’s movie touched on feminism, poverty and society expectations towards women, The Town Monger is about self-defense and life on the streets.
Films Association of Malawi president Ezaius Mkandawire says the release of the two films shows that the industry is slowly picking up.
The Town Monger became an overnight sensation on social media while Joya’s Road to Sun Rise promises to be a great theatrical piece.
“Malawi movie industry is making many strides. More seriously on the television series front, we have also made it into the market.
“More filmmakers have been improving their trade. We also had Hollywood big budget film (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) being shot in Kasungu,” says Mkwandawire.
When Joyah released the Road to Sun Rise it received mixed reviews. While some felt it was a step in the right direction, others felt the adult content was too explicit for the local audience.
The movies use of vulgar language and nudity content attracted debate in the media.
But executive producer of the film Joyah backed his project.
“The movie was rated 18. When we finished it we took it to the Censorship Board for review and the board rated it 18.
“I would have rated it 30 or above but the experts said its rate is 18 years and above,” explains Joya.
The Road to Sunrise is a human drama about exploitation, gender-based violence, love, hope, friendship, and the untiring human spirit in its quest for survival and freedom.
Central to its feminist narrative is the theme of self-empowerment for women.
The film stars Mirriam Phiri in the leading role as Rubia, Chantelle B. Phiri as Watipa, and Madock Masina as Shoti.
Exploring new ground
Chinese produced Kung fu movies are adored by locals. But no one expected a locally produced action flick, The Town Monger, to get the same attention.
But Kufewa Acrobatics’ The Town Monger, generated buzz online and drew interest even from regional cable distributors. The film premiered in Malawi in October.
The buzz started soon after the director posted the film’s trailer online. Abdul Rashid Shaibu one of the founders of the acrobatic group was founded in 2002.
“We started with trainings from 1999 by three people namely; Imaan Shaibu, Abdul Rashid Shaibu and Jumani Kantunda. However this year we roped in two new members; Alfred Hambali and Davisson Jeffrey making the group to have five members,” said Shaibu.
He explains that The Town Monger is their second movie and it has a plot of street kids who trained in Kung Fu and acrobatics as one way of empowering themselves.
The flick was such a big hit that by November 2017, it had over 30 million hits on You Tube channel.
However the producers of the movie complained that despite its massive success on social media, they have not realised much from the sales of its DVDs.
“We have decided to do street shows so that we create an opportunity to sell the movie. Otherwise, we are famous but with nothing in terms of monetary gains,” said Shaibu.
Mkandawire says lack of deliberate efforts by government and other stakeholders to support the film industry makes it impossible for producers to make a living out of their work.
“It is very impossible to earn a living in Malawi through film alone. Most people are still involved in film as a pass time and not really a career,” said Mkandawire.