By Kellys Kaunda
“There are several movies based on SA’s Nelson Mandela & I have just seen another on Botswana’s Sir Seretse Khama. Why is there not a movie on our own Dr Kenneth Kaunda?”
This is the question posed by Meluse Kapatamoyo on her Facebook page on Sunday, the 22nd of October 2017. From the long list of comments, it was clear to me that this was a subject so many people are interested in. I decided to continue this discussion on my page so that those of you that may not be her friend may have the opportunity to weigh in on the topic.
One day President Edgar Lungu stood over the grave of the late Paul Mushindo in Chinsali, the burial grounds for the parents of former President Kenneth Kaunda. With Kaunda standing by his side, I noticed he was about to speak. I quickly took a vantage position across the grave opposite him and pointed my camera in his direction. “The man that lies here was an educationist in his own right and a major figure in the building of this nation. I do not know why you colleagues in the media have not given people like him their rightful place in the history of this country. On my part, I will continue to speak about people like him so that we honor them in the manner they deserve”.
Those words by the President touched a special part of my soul and the whole of that afternoon they were running through my mind. That evening, I had the privilege of joining other people for dinner with him at the Tazara guesthouse. The evening was relaxed and the conversations across the dinner table dispensed with the protocols that would ordinarily deter one from saying anything in the presence of the Head of State. Jokes were made and everyone laughed, the President included. For a moment, I felt the freedom everyone felt to say what was in their mind.
I reminded everyone, especially the President of his remarks at the graveyard especially about Paul Mushindo. “Your Excellency, with a well developed movie industry supported by government policy, legislation and an institutional framework as it is in other countries, we can tell the stories of our historical figures”, I said. The President jumped in immediately and asked when the draft policy on film that he had talked about at one Multichoice function was going to be brought to him!
That film policy has now been passed and its implementation is actively underway. In South Africa, film has popularized that country’s iconic figures such as Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Winnie Mandela and many more. The movies have been done by film companies in the US and the UK with well known stars playing South Africa’s freedom struggle Stewarts. From a marketing standpoint, it made sense that the movies are done by big film companies and roles played by already established names in the movie industry. These movies have helped South Africa’s tourism industry as more and more tourists want to see the places shown in the movies and others wanted to meet Mandela when he was alive.
Why not a movie on Kaunda? I once posed this question to Dr. Vernon Johnson Mwaanga when I went to his home sharing with him my desires to go to Glasgow University and study for an MSc in Filmmaking. He told me that an international film company had once come to Zambia in the 70s with a proposal to the Zambian government to shoot a movie on Kaunda and the country’s role in the liberation movement. The company wanted government or Zambians to buy a stake in the production so that costs are shared. However, Dr. Mwaanga said Zambia was unable to raise this sum and the company decided to go to East Africa, Kenya in particular where it found partners who eagerly put in the money to tell a story that was essentially a Southern African story but set in East Africa!
Whatever one may say about the Kaunda legacy, his is a bankable film project waiting to be told. Using the South African model, the film could help the Zambian film industry and the tourist flows could improve tremendously. We have a huge opportunity with the film policy in place to change the film industry in Zambia and fulfill government’s desire to tell our own stories using a medium that has proved so effective in modern times.