Students of Nankumba Secondary School and Chazunda residents must be smiling knowing that their area will be placed on the world map after the release of Malawi’s new film B’ella, written and directed by Taonga Taddja Nkhonjera, the man behind Dikamawoko Arts.
The film shot at Chazunda in Malawi’s commercial city, Blantyre, depicts the life of a 17-year-old girl in Malawi.
“B’ella is a film that intends to tell a story of a 17 year old Malawian girl, who simply wants to be a girl, in a changing society; the relationships she has with her family and friends at home, classmates and teachers at school.
“It is a film that wants to show life in Malawi, without the prejudices and misconceptions of Western media that mostly show African countries as riddled with poverty, and fail to show the intrinsic happiness that we are mostly renowned for,” said Nkhonjera in an interview.
Nkhonjera said the name B’ella was plucked out of nowhere.
“Coincidentally, Bella in Italian means beautiful. B’ella in the film feels and knows that she is rather special so she adds an apostrophe to her name,” he says.
The film tackles issues of bullying in school, young love, true friendship, search of individuality and identity, HIV and Aids stigma and discrimination, the beauty of some traditions existing in semi-rural areas, vestiges of the rich culture that Malawi once had in its fullest, among others.
According to Nkhonjera, inspiration for the film came when he was discussing with the producer, Tereza Mirovicova a Czech singer, actor, and director of boNGO Worldwide, the need for a film that showed Malawi as a country.
He says his work with film maker Shemu Joyah on The Last Fishing Boat prepared him for his role in directing B’ella.
B’ella, a movie shot in close to 20 days, has a cast of more than 50 with many new faces in the budding film industry.
“Because it is a secondary school drama, we had a big cast of more than 50, most of them holding quite significant roles and the other parts covered by extras. We had a professional crew of around 20. The film introduces to young Malawians the art of filmmaking.
“Almost all the class students were actual students of Nankumba Secondary School. Only the characters of B’ella and Kalilole were played by Dikamawoko Arts actresses, Vinjeru Kamanga and Chimwemwe Mkwezalamba, respectively. The film also introduces for the first time on the screen renowned radio journalist, Tony Khoza, and has cameos from Hope Chisanu, Joyce Mhango Chavula, Anne Muhapala and Mirovicova, as well as compatriot Muhanya and myself,” he said.
And in May this year, Taddja’s first ever movie, B’ella will be premiered in all the major cities of the country.
The film will be around 90 minutes long and targets both Malawians and people from all over the world.