Malawi film industry has talent

Artist Elson Kambalu has always been known to the public as a curator. However, in 2013 he branched into film, where he is still telling stories. He is set to release two movies plus a sequel to his second production Mlandu Wa Njinga in March 2019. Yvonnie Sundu speaks to the artist.

Q: Tell us more about your movie making journey. So far, how is it?
A: I am new in the movie business. There were things in movies, especially, Malawian movies, that I wish I could see and experience but I could not see them. My motivation was simply curiosity. It was more of an experiment. Wanting to try to do what I could not see in other film makers and remembering the glory of movies I saw in London

Kambalu: Malawi must watch and support local movies

Q: You are a well known curator. How did you find yourself in the movie industry?
A: My artist in residency with the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust planted that seed. I did a documentary which was shown in London. I discovered many artists were going that way, video art. I felt moved to join that movement but I needed to find something that would appeal to a local Malawian. Conceptual art using video was already out considering the target audience, hence, using my ideas to make a movie seemed the right thing to do. That was in 2013. By 2015 I started with a short movie called Going South which I specifically produced for the Lilongwe Short Film Festival, an initiative by Lake of Stars. It runs 16 minutes. The movie won two awards at that event and I was encouraged and motivated. The same year I wrote a script Mlandu Wa Njinga/ The Case of a bicycle, which I began shooting in the same year. It took us two years to finish it by 2017, the movie was ready to be showcased to the world. We premiered it in Lilongwe at Crossroads then Blantyre and Zomba.

Q: You are working on two other movies; Fisi and Laura’s Diary. Tell us more about these films?
A: Fisi/Hyena talks about a family that is struggling to have a child. Family pressure compels them to go an extra mile. Laura’s Diary talks about a young woman who suddenly becomes a mother through adoption of a child left by a sex worker. She goes out to find the father of the child and in the process does and meets the unexpected. The films are expected to be out before the year ends.

Q: You are working on the movie Mlandu Wa Njinga the sequel. Why have you decided to come up with part two?
A: The story in Mlandu Wa Njinga is complex. When you get to the end it is like the movie is just beginning. The ending raised a lot of curiosity about what happened next. The movie is not an end in itself but it signifies somewhat a journey that has just begun and must finish. While one can appreciate it in its context, I felt it would be great to have a sequel because that will answer the curious. The part two will come out next year March. So far so good for the first part. People are developing interest in it. People are buying the DVD but as you and I know, you just have to fight to put it across.

Q: What is your take on the Malawi film industry?
A: Malawi must embrace this movement. We have Shemu Joyah and Joyce Mhango Chavula, among other great directors. Malawi must watch and support this industry. It is a very difficult and expensive industry but must be supported at all costs. n

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