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11 September 2010

Whats Making You Laugh on Zim TV These Days?

Thanks to a free to air decoder, which snaps up any un-encrypted signal onto my TV screen, it has been a while since I did Zim TV. I got a little lost when a lot of people started talking about the new TV sensation, Kapfupi: his acting, his music and a whole load of other stuff. One day I heard this guy compare him to my all time Zimbabwean TV favourite, Gringo, and then I really started to feel like I was missing out on something.

A friend lent me the DVD; I sprawled on the sofa and got ready to be entertained. I don’t remember the title, but I do remember it all started with Kapfupi and his trusty sidekick, Marabha, climbing over a gate to get to a house in an effort to look for employment at this residence. That elicited a smile out of me, and raised in me an expectation of a wild and hilarious adventure ahead.

After a little while, my smile turned to uneasiness…then slowly into disappointment and a little bit of disbelief. The show was over-acted, over improvised, poorly edited and the sound quality was terrible. In one scene, I actually spotted one of the cameramen uncomfortably crouching in the bushes.

I wondered if this was the current prime of Zimbabwean video production. It was as if the whole crew and cast came to the scene without a clue as to what they were about to do, entirely depending on the whims of the lead actors:

“What do you feel like doing today?” the director would ask.

“I don’t know,” Kapfupi would answer, “I wanted to record a song when I woke up this morning but it seems like a perfectly sunny day. Let’s act.”

“Ok. Um…what do you wanna act about?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Kapfupi would answer, “Just start the cameras rolling, I’ll think of something along the way.”

Maybe it’s a new way of making dramas in Zimbabwe: the impromptu approach. It kind of reminds me of an article that explained how they make African (read ‘Nigerian’) movies. The total number of cast members and crew would be about ten; extras are taken from whatever location the filming is taking place. Filming is done using hand held camcorders: which explains why an earthquake occurs every time the camera has to follow someone around.

It takes about a week to shoot a Nigerian movie and one director actually boasted that he could make a movie in three days flat. Considering the quality of their products, I believe him. I also believe that if our own Kapfupi decided to do a full length feature movie, he could lay that Nigerian director’s claim to shame by doing it in a day without a script.

I wonder whatever happened to the creative days of Paraffini, Mukadota and the actor I best remember for on-screen improvisation, Mutirowafanza. Those names invoke warm funny moments of the whole family gathered up before the TV during prime time to laugh away the evening and share the humor first thing tomorrow morning at school, at work or with the neighbor hanging out the laundry next door.

I think the peak quality production in comedy drama was reached with Gringo. Gringo’s cast was memorable, the storyline well thought out and the improvisations by the main actor, Lazarus Boora, could barely be identified as such. After that, the industry decided on a downward spiral and never looked back.

Granted, it is very brave of Kapfupi to make this bold undertaking to revive the genre. I tried him, but I don’t think him good enough yet. For the meantime, I’m going back to my Everybody Hates Chris and George Lopez on neighboring countries’ TV until we get someone who doesn’t throw a half baked idea onto our screens.

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