Zimbabwean video films as alternative cinema
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This study examines the filmmaking practices of selected Zimbabwean video filmmakers across the filmmaking value chain in order to explore how they ‘negotiate’, ‘appropriate’, ‘contaminate’ and ‘violate’ mainstream conventional filmmaking modes. The analysis contextualizes conditions of production from concept to exhibition. Evidence is that filmmaking choices are framed as much by the aesthetics of filmmaking as by the resources that are available. Filmmaking and distribution occur mostly under the radar. The video filmmaker is a hybrid between a “guerilla” and a “hustler” who has adapted his/her means to create a “shoe-string” alternative cinematic practice. The study began with a historical outline of post-colonial film practice and how this did not allow a conducive environment for alternative ‘indigenous’ cinematic practice. It then proceeded to examine the nature of video film practice and its efficacy. The nature of video film practice was examined from concept to exhibition in terms of how video filmmakers navigate their way through the limitations of their resources-in the process creating an alternative cinematic movement. The study concluded by analyzing how the language and aesthetic orientation of the films constitute a hybrid alternative cinematic praxis. Through the lens of Hybridity and Third Cinema theories the researcher argues that as a new form of cultural expression, video film is Zimbabwe’s new ‘Alternative Cinema’ invented by innovative Zimbabweans in remapping the turbulent contours of a troubled post-colony. Through visual analysis, participant observation and interviews, the study demonstrates how creative classes of marginal Zimbabweans have now taken initiative, appropriating and adapting new media technologies in reinventing not just their social and economic lives, but also in revisualizing their social struggles in everyday life for both local and international audiences. In short, the thematic and cinematographic imperfections and shortfalls of the Zimbabwe video film emerges a recognizable Zimbabwean film “movement, a style, a way of doing film”, a ‘subgenre’ worth study and critical appreciation. This is an attempt to find purpose, intention, ‘beauty’ and method out of that which is ordinarily regarded as jumbled, unrefined, ugly and accidental. The researcher concludes that the lack of funding and institutional support has necessitated the creation of a de-centralized and decolonized filmmaking praxis in Zimbabwe. After a past of unsuccessful models that included government and non-governmental organization (NGO) funding, the Zimbabwean film industry is emerging anew in the mold of video filmmaking practice. This filmmaking praxis is not a utopia. Funding, distribution and profitability are in flux, and the future remains unsure and unclear. The researcher concludes that, a traditionally monopolistic, minority and elitist activity is now open to broader participation and innovation.