Malawi has a small but booming film industry. The Malawian film, Seasons of a Life cleaned up at the Zanzibar Film Festival and created an international sensation, premiering at festivals in Egypt and Kenya. It is no surprise that film has a place in Malawi – a place full of visual and oral storytelling. It’s hard to find a community that doesn’t have its own theater group, so it’s only natural that the theater should gravitate to the screen.
The Director of Seasons of a Life, Charles Shemu Joyah is now working on another feature length film, shot entirely in Malawi. Working with local script writer (and Sandy’s friend and tennis partner), Michael Phoya, the film explores culture, clashes between generations, lakeshore communities, race, jealousies, and of course love and sacrifice. Our good friend, Rob Loughlin, was cast as a lead actor, and plays a muzungu tourist with questionable morals. With a thick Irish accent and no previous acting experience, Rob worked extremely hard during the two month shoot and is now a seasoned professional.
While the film is in the final editing process, there were a few last minute shots needed. Rob volunteered his house for a party scene and volunteered his friends to be extras! We, of course, jumped at the chance to participate, surprised that the film had made it this far without our acting skills!
About a dozen of us met at Rob’s last weekend, had a quick dinner while they set up, and prepared for our cameos. The crew had three cameras, plus one for behind the scenes footage. I’m not sure what all the equipment is called, but there were lights, cameras, and some action.
What amazed me was that they were able to shoot the scene without the main character (who was late – it’s still Malawi). Instead the Director explained what expressions he wanted and how we should clap or cheer or drink beer (props, of course). The waiting around was long, but the shooting was incredibly short – they took two takes and we were done. We must be exceptionally talented.
It was exciting to be a part of it, not just because we’ll be famous and probably nominated for something, but because this team is really talented and it was interesting to see how it all worked. I remember seeing films being shot in Washington DC when we lived there and the massive amounts of people and equipment that is required. Here they make award winning films with a few cameras and a lot of imagination.