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Zimbabwe Film Festival Survives in Spite of Country's Economic Problems


The curtain came down on the ninth annual Zimbabwe International Film Festival Sunday. The local media and film lovers have hailed it as a success. But the festival has not been spared the economic problems facing the country.

For more than a week, Zimbabweans could choose from more than 100 films from more than 40 countries.

Despite the problems facing the country, the festival seems to be in fairly good shape. But festival director Rumbi Katedza told VOA that holding the festival in the country's hyper-inflationary environment is a growing challenge.

"Obviously we come up with our budgets almost a year before the next festival and we peg it at a U.S. dollar rate and try to project inflation. This goes beyond art. ... the projections can change on a day to day basis, but we just have to do what we can do and we try to be as open as possible with our funders," said Katedza. "I think they also appreciate the difficult environment that we live in and they have also been flexible in terms of the funding that they are giving us."

The sponsors have done more than just finance the festival. This year one of them provided a generator at the main venue to ensure the show would go on even if there was a power cut. Power blackouts have become commonplace in Zimbabwe as the country does not have enough foreign currency to import electricity.

The trust that runs the festival also operates a short-film project, which according to its producer, Nakai Matema, is the only film-making training facility in the country. In previous years she has produced five short films, which premiere at the festival. But because of budgetary constraints this year, Matema only produced three.

"In theory I could have made four films, maybe four and half, but the budgets that I started off with at the beginning of the year kept on changing from month to month. It ended up working fine because we only did three films," she said. "We actually went out of our way to do them as best as we possibly can. We did lots of preparations, we re-wrote the scripts until they were exactly right and we had enough pre-production for each film. So In a way it sort of worked out well."

Matema lamented that most of the people she has worked with end up leaving the country because of a lack of opportunities in Zimbabwe. But this year's winner of the Best Short Film award, who also won it last year, Brighton Tazarurwa has no plans to leave.

"I figure by sticking around we have kind of raised the bar a bit on what Is expected of Zimbabwean film and people will have somewhere to aspire to reach because everybody who has been doing good, yes they do good then they leave and go and exalt other countries' film productions," said Tazarurwa. "I think we need to start pushing this Industry, what has been killing this Industry Is everybody else leaving."

The organizers are still assessing this year's festival, but director Katedza Is already looking into the future. She promises a big party to celebrate the Zimbabwe International Film Festival's 10th anniversary in 2007.