In his paper, Factors Affecting the Growth of the Malawian Film Industry published in the journal of Development and Communication Studies, Chancellor College theatre academician Mufunanji Magalasi explores the challenges in the Malawian film industry from colonial times to the present.
Magalasi, who is associate professor at the Fine and Performing Arts Department at Chancellor College, explores how political regimes and their policies have affected the industry.
He argues that the colonial government was oppressive in their approach to the film industry in the sense that movies that had roles for Africans were for the benefit of the colonialists, for instance tea companies used film to encourage a tea drinking culture among Africans.
In the 30-page article, the scholar describes the one-party regime as a mainly oppressive to creative arts and film. During this era, he states, government was the only producer and filmmaker in the country.
And he describes the multi-party era as a lost opportunity for film to flourish.
He faults local television stations such as Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for airing programmes by foreign media institutions such as BBC and CNN; hence, failing to develop local content.
Magalasi praised film-maker Shemu Joyah and a few others that are making a difference in local film-making. And although he hails Michael Usi, aka Manganya, for his role in the industry, his praise is subdued.
An extract on Usi reads: “His main contribution is that he is attempting to do something, though Vicensia Shule’s ambivalence of being caught in between innovation and incompetence on some Tanzanian films, applies to Usi and his film productions.”
Magalasi analyses four films, Joyah’s Seasons of a Life, Villant Ndasowa-Jana’s Mystery Mountain, Patrick Njawala’s Iri mu Ufa and Maneno Mtawali’s The Test using Steve Chimombo’s Ulimbanso method, which measures inspiration, aesthetics and artistic innovation. After the assessment, only Seasons of a Life and Mystery Mountain pass the test.