HARARE – Filmmaker Patience Tawengwa is working with South Africans on the series, Somewhere in Africa, focusing on a female African president.
The president is revered by some and yet reviled by others. It is an original television series which follows the life of a post-colonial era African president and her family as they face the challenges of modern day life in 21st century Africa.
Tawengwa told the Daily News on Sunday that she linked up with SA filmmakers.
She co-founded Almasi Collaborative Arts with Hollywood star, Danai Gurira.
“At this moment, I can only reveal that I have a South African co-producing partner but I cannot divulge full details as we are in the process of ironing out the finer details between us.
“I linked up with my co-producing partner through the Lusaka film and music festival last year in November. I was given a platform to pitch and later on in the evening when we all went for one of the festival events he said, ‘I liked your pitch and we want it’.
“After I came back to Zimbabwe and he went back to SA, we continued communicating and now we are here.”
She said she was also looking for someone who is capable of producing a high quality production.
She explained her choice of a female leader.
“The character is a woman because I, the creator of the show, am also a woman,” she said. “I believe the character is also infinitely more interesting as a woman. I am a woman and I know some African women who have very powerful positions in the marketplace but when they come home they are very cultural.
“They kneel before their husbands while serving food as their husbands do not eat what the maid cooks. They play the muroora role when the in-laws come to visit, so how would this play out with a woman who is also the president?
“What happens when power meets tradition and culture? This is the story from an African perspective.”
The veteran filmmaker said they were still in production and are yet to secure channels and platforms to release it.
Sandra Chidawanyika Goliath will be lead actress, playing Madam President.
“I think she is one of our best actresses and it would be great to see her cast with talent from other African countries. She has a certain subtlety about her and she doesn’t act with a Capital A, she lives her characters and it’s believable.
“The plan is to shoot this in Johannesburg and I desperately want Zimbabwean talent on the show because I also want to promote my own home country, logistics and budget may curtail the number of Zimbabweans we have. Also now, with this being a partnership, it means even if I am the creator of the show, I have to be willing to also give the other party a voice in the talent on board,” Tawengwa said.
The filmmaker is the creator of Somewhere in Africa but has her sister, Felicity writing the first episode.
“I specifically asked her to do it for me because she is very sharp about such things and so I needed a writer who could connect with the subject matter.”
The production sounds closer to home in a continent dominated by dictators.
Tawengwa insists it is not in particular reference to anyone.
“The TV series is not based on any particular person. Africans are very political people because most of us live in very young countries which recently got their independence.
“We see a lot of things if not everything through a political lens — one is viewed to be either for or against someone or something political most of the time, which is simply not true.
“So when I was searching for a story that I could build a TV show around, and that interested me, the idea of the story of an African president came to my mind,” she said.
Tawengwa said she was trying to give people an inside picture into third world leaders.
“Our African presidents are never seen as three-dimensional human beings. They are either branded as perfect saints or absolute villains and there is no middle ground in between, no balance to most accounts about them.
“This show explores and presents the character as a three-dimensional human being, one we hopefully can empathise with.
“This is not going to be a show that either one dimensionally vilifies or completely glorifies the job. It must be a very, very difficult job to be a modern day African president because as Chinua Achebe said, ‘the kind of damage colonial rule does is that you no longer have the ability to rule yourself.’ So our presidents are in the process of re-inventing how we rule ourselves beyond colonialism, this is tough.”
Tawengwa is a multi-award winner. She has won ZIFF, Nama, Zita, UZ Theatre awards.
Some of her theatrical works include the plays Loupe, Allegations, Ebony and Ivory, Comrades and many others.
She has participated at several international film festivals including Hifa, the Second Pan African Cultural Festival in Algiers and Bejaia State Theatre, Algeria (2009), the Dublin Winter Theatre Festival, Dublin Ireland (2009), Market Theatre in South Africa (2010), Eastgate theatre in the Scottish Borders (2010), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2010), Improvisationsteater in Stockholm, Sweden (2012) and the Musho Theatre Festival, Durban, South Africa (2013).