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BLOG: Something Nice from London premieres in Harare

Photo credit: Preston Rolls

October 2013

Last week, 200 of the most prominent movers and shakers from the worlds of art, business and media celebrated the premiere screening of Something Nice from London, a 60 minute drama adapted from an award winning short story by Petina Gappah.

The film was the culmination of a month long training programme run by Latimer Films, a BAFTA-nominated social enterprise which makes issue-based dramas with young people in the UK. 

The idea was to bring Latimer’s particular methodology of improvised, microbudget filmmaking to a group of young Zimbabwean filmmakers who could then extend their own practice by producing socially engaged docudramas for local audiences.   Among the incredibly talented participants we worked with were Joe Njagu and Rufaro Kaseke the makers of the popular Zimbabwean film, The Gentleman.  These two young filmmakers really impressed Latimer in the selection process by demonstrating not only their creative but also their entrepreneurial talents.  (Made on a shoestring, The Gentlemen reached a local audience of 200,000 through distribution by airtime vendors.)

The Zimbabwean film industry, familiar to UK industry figures as co-producer of Cry Freedom, has been out of the spotlight for some years.  This project was designed to pull focus on the relationship between UK/Zim creative filmmakers and the result was a real sense excitement building, attracting local stars including Munya Chidzonga and a remarkable group of seasoned TV stars including Memory Bususu and Lovewell Chisango.

‘Something Nice from London’ tells the story of Mary (Rumbidzai Karize) after the death of her brother and her struggles to get his body back from the UK while dealing with an ever growing crowd of mourning relatives flooding into her small house in Harare. The project garnered full support from the author. In fact when Petina first heard that the British Council were planning a broadcast film training programme not only did she generously offer the rights to her story but also a fair amount of her own furniture to dress the set and even members of her own family as extras...

Nick Marcq, Director of Latimer Films spoke about the project back in London: “Latimer’s methodology focuses on developing stories based on the real life experience of those involved with an emphasis on improvisation, small crews and minimal kit, so it was exciting to take our process overseas and see it work in a foreign country in a foreign language.”

Particularly apealing was the opportunity to work with a terrifically talented group on such an indigenous story. Funerals are the epicenter of cultural life in Zimbabwe, bringing people together in song, dance, celebration and mourning and every day brought new insights that found their way into the film, making the whole a truly collaborative experience.

Nick's sentiments were echoed by many of the participants:

‘The style was definitely new to us, and I liked it because it gives the actors more room creatively and makes the job of the director more than just dictating performance.’ JOE NJAGU, Co-director

‘One thing I loved about the whole process was the collaborative nature of it where everybody had a chance to contribute to the process without feeling like you are a spectator.’ YEUKAI NDARIMANI, Co-director

‘As a production designer I really appreciate the creative space that I was given to try out ideas and come up with the best environment.’ JOSH CHANGA, Art Director

‘One of the most interesting roles I have played in all the years I have been on screen.’ LOVEWELL CHISANGO, Actor

‘There was a feeling of family and I felt like we should have shot for a bit longer...a memorable role.’ PRETTY XABA, Actor

Now the film is being shown to Festival programmers and the ambition will be to see it screened at a number of African and UK film festivals next year.

Jill Coates, Director, British Council Zimbabwe