Thursday, June 13, 2024

Mutiny on the Bounty: Memories of a Great Movie


By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Emeritus Professor of Sociology

I had just completed my Form V (Grade 12) at Chizongwe Secondary School in December 1971. I was very excited when I was offered my very first job as Assistant Manager at Dzithandizeni Nutrition Group in Chipata. My pay was K95.00 per month.

I knew Chipata really well as the town was small. I was young. I did not drink at the time as I was still under the legal drinking age of 18. I could not go to bars and nightclubs. Most of my friends and classmates had migrated to the City of Lusaka and the Copperbelt. Virtually all the young girls of my dreams, especially from St. Monica’s Girls Secondary School, generally migrated to Lusaka and the Copperbelt. My biggest entertainment that I looked forward to was watching movies on Saturday night.

The largely small white or European expatriate community had converted a three-bedroom residential house in the Chipata Mayadi or upscale residential neighborhood into a movie theater. The house was located east of the Chipata Post Office. It was there where I showed up one Saturday night in 1971 at 7:00pm or 1900 hours to see a movie. The small room could accommodate about 75 movie goers.

You could tell those days the length of the movie you are about to watch by how many large reels were piled up next to the projector operator. As I settled down in my seat, I was happy to see three humongous reels. The sweet continuous purring sound of the projector started. The large screen image was new and rectangular called technicolor. Then the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Logo of the roaring lion showed.

Three long hours later, I walked out of that movie drenched in sweat all over my body. I was thrilled. Suddenly I had so many questions and dreams as I walked home through the dimly lit streets of Chipata next to the Kanjala School neighborhood where the house in which I was temporarily living was located. I murmured to myself so much as I walked for 45 minutes going over the thrilling scenes from the movie in my head so many times.

Fifty-two years is a long time ago. Although I could still remember major scenes from the movie, I wished I could see the movie again. I had no hope I would ever see the movie because that was such a long time ago until I complained to my son who majored in computer science in college. He is computer savvy which I am not. To my both surprise and joy, I could watch “Mutiny on the Bounty” again on my TV.

The narrator starts in 1787 in a British Empire seaport in England. The massive sailboat “The Bounty” was getting ready to sail. The dozens of sail boat hands were ordinary British laborers looking for adventure. The main characters are Captain Bly, perhaps the most ruthless villain and cruel captain on the boat. Captain Bly’s nemesis is Captain Christian Fletcher who is the young legendary Marlon Brandon. I did not know who Marlon Brando was in 1971.

What are the five memorable events in the entire movie? Spoiler alert: if you are going to watch the movie, you should stop here. First, the cruelty of Captain Bly was so over the top and disgusting I wanted to strangle him with my bare hands 52 years ago in 1971 and now in 2023. Second, the violent sea storms the Bounty encountered for days were deadly and heart thumping. Third, the scenes and events when the boat arrived on the South Pacific Island of Tahiti are simply memorable for a teenager, especially the dances and beautiful gorgeous bikini girls on the blue waters and white sand beaches. Fourth, when Captain Fletcher led the mutiny, I was cheering thinking that it was about time. Fifth, “The Bounty” mutineers sailed to over 30 islands to seek refuge and hide from the forces of the British empire who were going to hunt for and hang them for the mutiny. The end of the movie is very heart wrenching especially for a hopeless romantic like this author.

There are so many questions I could not answer about why this movie affected me so profoundly 52 years ago. Afterall, this was a piece of fiction or make believe. Why was I sweating? Besides the beautiful women, why did the Tahiti islands and the South Pacific influence me so much of my dreams for much of my life?

My experience was testimony to how a great piece of powerful art can influence you for life. After watching that movie, I began to dream of travelling around the world even though I grew up in Zambia which is a land locked country. I wanted to visit the Caribbean and South Pacific Islands. When you are confronted with egregious good vs evil, which side would you be on? Would I support and cower to evil or would I fight for good? Was I capable of rebelling against evil such as during African Atlantic Slave Trade and the Arab Slave Trade? Most of all the movie greatly influenced me because I am a romantic and a good romance writer.

Because I am a romance writer this is why I wrote my romance adventure novel “The Bridge”. The Curriculum Development Center of the Ministry of Education has approved the novel “The Bridge” for use in Zambian Schools for teaching English and English Literature in Grades 10 – 12.” I would have loved to read “The Bridge” when I was learning English literature at Chizongwe Secondary School.

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