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"Have courage to do the things you want to do" - Interview with filmmaker Rumbi Katedza
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
June 07, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Rumbi Katedza

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Rumbi KatedzaRumbi Katedza is a Zimbabwe-based film director, producer and writer. She has worked as a radio presenter/producer on the popular former Zimbabwean station, Radio 3. Her articles have been featured in numerous magazines including Vertigo, AV Specialist and Hype! Her fiction writing has been published in Women Writing Zimbabwe, the BTA/Anglo-Platinum Winners Collection and Illuminations. Over the years she has worked in production management on several film and video productions with companies from around the world. She became Director of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, before going out on her own as a producer and director of narrative and documentary content through her company, Mai Jai Films. In addition to co-producing and line producing projects, Mai Jai Films also runs Postcards from Zimbabwe, a children's audio-visual and life-skills training project, and, a comprehensive Zimbabwean film promotion website.


What drew you to filmmaking?
I grew up in Japan. My formative years were spent in Tokyo. On one of my birthdays my parents bought me a bicycle, so I went around the neighbourhood, and I found a little video club and I walked in and asked if I could join, and I started watching films and I watched them regularly. The school system is different to here. They follow the American calendar where you start school in September and finish in May, so I had a long holiday, everyday cycling to the video club and watching films. And I thought wow, I could do this. The idea of creating something from nothing was really exciting. When I came to Zimbabwe for high school there was no outlet for filmmaking per se, so the obvious thing I could follow was theatre. My first piece was a huge disaster. I wrote it and I directed it, and it went on forever. It became known as the third form disaster. But I was really lucky that my classmates believed in me enough to allow me to direct another play two years later. I think that was a lesson in critique and taking criticism. That's just the nature of what we do, we should be ready to listen to it and take what works for us and discard what does not work for us. I don't think we have enough critiques in our society. Listen

What kind of stories do you like to tell?
Human interest stories. I like them the most because they're the ones that transcend culture and borders. There's something that is true to your heart and your emotion about your journey as an individual. People can relate to it anywhere. Particularly in Zimbabwe, there's a lot that we don't say, or there's a lot that's not documented. We need to have visual images of Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans. We are like everyone else. We wake up and try to make a living in whatever way we can, we raise families, we go out and party. We're like anybody else but we don't see that . . . that's what we want to do especially with films that we're making now, is to do more entertainment. The money isn't necessarily out there but we need to show Zimbabweans as they are. Listen

What is your opinion of art that is donor funded?
I think there is definitely a platform for it, but it shouldn't be the only platform. The challenge that has arisen here in Zimbabwe is that it seems to be the only direction that art has been taking over the last decade because that is where much of the core funding has been coming from. Individuals and organisations will do art depending on what the key word is for that day. We're stuck in a rut; we need to get out of that and creating art for art's sake. I think the artist‘s soul is ripped from their art if they are not allowed to interpret a theme in a way that they think; it becomes more of an infomercial than a piece of art.

What do you feel is necessary for the creative community to fully express itself?
I think at the individual level it's courage to do the things you want to do. Very often it may not pay the bills; it takes courage to do something because you believe in it. The courage to do things that people may not like and then be criticised for it, or the courage to not censor yourself because you're worried what other people will think. On another level you need support so that you can live on your art at the end of the day. A lot of the artistic disciplines that survive do so because there is support at government level. We need the educational systems mixed together with funding for production and we ultimately need the support for distribution. That is the most important, because if you're making it and nobody sees it at the end of the day, I think marketing wise you haven't done very well. The distribution channels need to exist where we can get our art out, so that local people see our films, so that people flock to our theatres, so that if I do a visual arts piece its travelling and I'm doing exhibitions not just at home, but abroad or even in the next town.

What is
I was going to festivals all over the world and people were incredulous that there were films actually being made in Zimbabwe. They had no idea that we have a rich history in terms of filmmaking from cinematographic film, to digital filmmaking. I wanted people to be able to see what I see. In my opinion, the busier the industry is, then the busier I will be because there will more funding available. Competition is good in any industry; if we don't have to worry so much about the work then we can start worrying about pushing for policy and other things. For me it's important that we're successful and we have the channels. Listen

What do you hope to achieve with your production company Mai Jai Films?
I want to make a lot of films for entertainment's sake. We want to pioneer a new generation of filmmakers who don't feel that they need to make the next best NGO film. So we're looking for good scripts to make into films. Our first project is my feature film, and then I'm also working with other filmmakers developing scripts and looking for funding so that we can get more of that done. Then there's the element of being able to mentor young people. With the contacts that I've developed in my work I can ask them to invest a little of their time towards mentoring aspiring filmmakers. I'm not trying to make the next best filmmaker necessarily. If they want to be a filmmaker that's great, but if I've given a sense of confidence, hope and direction to a young person because they've seen role models who happen to be filmmakers then all the better for the rest of the country. Listen

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Audio File

  • Why filmmaking
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 43sec
    Date: June 07, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.57MB

  • Human interest stories
    Language: English
    Duration: 55sec
    Date: June 07, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 873KB

  • What is
    Language: English
    Duration: 51sec
    Date: June 07, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 797KB

  • MaiJai productions
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min
    Date: June 07, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 944KB

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