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Factors affecting the growth of the Malawian film industry

M Magalasi


Interest in development of Malawian film has occurred like flashes in pans over the years, considering the culture of cinema and film making in the country. Like many Malawian arts genres, attempts to develop the film industry have met lukewarm responses from the market that seems unready to consume Malawian products, given the international competition that the practice has had over the years, whether it be from the British colonial films, moving to Hollywood, the injection of Chinese karate movies and of late the popular Nollywood video films. Besides the market, however, issues of support in terms of non-existent legal frameworks emerge now and again, adding to explanations of failing growth. Critically, the silence on Malawian film making and cinema in international scholarly circles, with the exception of David Kerr’s lone voice, should be a surprise, given how other industries in the region and the continent have developed, and continue to develop. This article attempts to ask some of the most basic questions about the practice of film making in Malawi on who, what, and how films have been created, tracing the history of cinema from the British Colonial practice, through Kamuzu Banda’s reign to the present. Having done that, the paper samples a selection of films from reputable film makers, and using Steve Chimombo’s theory of ULIMBASO, places them within the ideological formations and aesthetics of Malawi and Africa. In the end, what this paper achieves is to further what scholars such as David Kerr have explored as they connected the Malawian film industry to British colonial film making in Central Africa, tea marketing cinema, and its illustrious viewing plans in Nyasaland, as it fills the scholarly information gap that exists.

Key words: Hollywood, Malawian film, ULIMBASO, Nollywood, Tea Marketing Cinema