Re-organising film industry with M-Theatres

Despite challenges such as piracy and lack of proper marketing and distribution channels for films in Malawi, M-Theatres Cinema sees light at the end of the tunnel in the local film industry. It has, therefore, embarked on a new project, Malawi Film Festival and Awards, aimed at energising the country’s film industry, which is popularly known as Mollywood. Our reporter HOWARD MLOZI speaks to owner of M-Theatres Sunduzwayo Jere on the project.

Jere: The Film Festival will expose film producers

Q

: Tell us more about the Malawi Film Festival and Awards?

A

:  Well, apart from running a cinema business, we have decided to go an extra mile to introduce and host the Malawi Film Festival and Awards to promote our local film producers. As you may be aware that we do have some gifted producers locally, but they are unable to reach out to the masses because people do not know them and the kind of movies they are producing.

 

Q

 We have had similar festivals before. What will be the unique aspect about this festival?

A

:  Yes, I am aware that previously Malawi had such projects, but the unique feature about the M-Theatres Film Festival is that, first and foremost, we have lined up a number of activities such as workshops where we want to enlighten the film producers, directors, actors and actresses regarding cinematography, script writing as well as adapting the script to the cinema. Beyond that, we also want to empower them in terms of marketing and distribution because it does not help anybody to produce many movies without commercialising the product. So, for us as M-Theatres, it is in our interest not only to show Hollywood movies, but to promote our local talent and heritage.

 

Q

:    What specific gaps do you want to fill through the capacity building workshops?

A

:  There is a very big gap in terms of the cinema industry in Malawi. First and foremost, it is to do with quality. I think most players are not aware of the kind of quality that people are looking for and cannot take substandard products to the people—that is the first problem we have. Secondly, film producers in Malawi lack a platform through which they can generate revenue out of their movies. But as M-Theatres, we have already come up with avenues [like the M-Theatres auditorium] which they can use to release their movies through and generate income from it. We want to instill a culture of screening local movies apart from Hollywood films.

We are also looking at developing a model for distributing movies in Malawi, which we would like to empower them with.

 

Q:    Distribution of movies in Malawi is a serious problem. What model is this?

A

:  Basically, what we are looking at is a partnership between movie producers and M-Theatres. For example, at the moment the tradition is that when the movie producers come up with a production, they print DVDs and take them to the market. But for those of us that understand cinema realise that is not the correct model and that is why they are unable to collect a lot of revenue. People just duplicate those DVDs willy-nilly and sell them without minding the copyright issues.  But those who will be willing to work with us will be taken to another level.

As a Malawian who is passionate about the creative industries,  it hurts me to see film producers producing good movies and get nowhere with them, except the few movies that have  made it internationally.

 

Q

:    You have screened local movies such Mulandu Wa Njinga by Elson Kambalu and Chaz’s Sponge at M-Theatres before. How can you describe the response from the audience?

A

:  The response is actually very encouraging. In fact, you will be shocked to note that there is a huge audience for Malawian movies. And we have just discovered from the submitions for the Malawi Film Festival and Awards that Malawi has plenty of short movies.  I have actually met a certain film producer who has over five short films produced within the last two years. They are of very good quality. So, we want to start showcasing these movies from the third week of August so that people can get a feel of what Malawi can offer.

 

Q

: As M-Theatres, what do you want to achieve at the end of the day?

A

:  As M-Theatres, our main aim of hosting the film festival is to expose film producers. We believe that the more local film producers are exposed the more they are going to make money and produce more films which will create more employment.  The third aspect is about promoting our rich heritage. Basically, movies explore and expose cultural values of a society. So, we need to take that to the world.n

 

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