Cape Town based filmmaker Chester Munakamwe whose light has been shining brightly in the creative sector since deciding to leave Zimbabwe for the Rainbow nation believes art can be an avenue for unity.
Munakamwe was the leading light in Money Matters, a series produced in South Africa by Atlantic Whales Productions (AWP) with a full cast of Zimbabwean nationals. He played the character Tinashe.
The web series took film streaming by storm when it premiered late in 2019 but the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic affected its production though AWP has promised its fans that the series will continue.
Before migrating to South Africa, the versatile Munakamwe became famous for his roles in the action movie “Go Chanaiwa Go” and local soapie opera “Wenera”.
Munakamwe (CM) opened up on his journey in the film industry in an in-depth interview with Wilson Chipangura (WC). Below are excerpts from the interview.
Who is Chester Munakamwe?
I was born in Harare, last of 3 boys.. I began my acting career in 2014, but before that I used to see myself as a musician (rapper) but that aspiration experienced a quick death. I had my fair share of entrepreneurial ventures in Zimbabwe where I was involved in a couple of startups, some of which are still in business to date. Lastly, I am a staunch Manchester United fan.– Chester Munakamwe
When did you start acting and what inspired you?
I got into acting in 2006. It was more of an accident or should I say it was fate. I had walked a friend of mine to an audition and it happened that there was a part people were not nailing and I asked to try and ended up getting the role. The pioneer of that project was Geoffrey Chaparadza of Touch Eyecon Media.– Chester Munakamwe
How and what made you migrate to Cape Town considering you had made name for yourself locally?
The move to Cape Town was meant to try out the regional scene but the industry here works quite differently. In Zimbabwe, all you could manage to make for yourself at the time was just a name and no means of survival. It was more of passion than anything.– Chester Munakamwe
How did you find yourself part of Atlantic Whales Production and how was it like to produce Money Matters?
AWP was birthed from a number of botched independent productions which saw myself, Kudzi T Gwenya and Mathew Sande come together to form the production house. Through our experience (Mathew and I) along with Kudzi’s undoubted passion we forged an alliance that gave us our first baby Money Matters. It was a rough terrain producing Money Matters as mostly only Mathew has vast experience behind the scenes and I having to tap into my “inner creative instinct” to write the screen play for the first-time. Coming up with the cast, location, scouting and all the logistics involved in pulling it off was a huge learning curb but with the dedicated team we had it was worth it.– Chester Munakamwe
Any challenges you have faced?
Definitely it was challenging because we didn’t have complete filming gear so the need for funds is also the first hurdle. Other than that having our cast from different walks of life means that the rehearsal schedule and space is a major issue. The other thing is that just after our first episode we had the Covid-19 pandemic which crushed our momentum and with it potential funding that would have seen us continue with shooting the web-series. It’s been difficult to come out of the slump but we have a never say die attitude of both cast and crew which I admire a lot.– Chester Munakamwe
Is there any notable difference or gap between Zimbabwe and South Africa film industry?
Definitely. In the South African film industry, you can’t just surface in the mainstream without an agency. There is a protocol or standard of doing things if I may say, whereas in Zimbabwe talking from the time I left it’s every man for himself. The is also an issue of incentives. SA film industry is lucrative if you do find yourself in the mainstream while back home unless the project is backed by a private organization or NGO, it’s mostly passion projects with hopes of being recognized one day. Another thing is the gear/technologies involved in the production. Only a few in Zimbabwe have access to such whereas in SA anyone is able to hire or even purchase any of the products you might need. Also when it comes to production crew in SA they go all out, covering all bases. In Zimbabwe it’s a small team with one person doing 3 or 4 jobs. For Zimbabwe it’s only recently when they have started creating or accessing distribution platforms whereas SA has had plenty options for a long time. There are more funding opportunities as well in SA if you have the right product.– Chester Munakamwe
What needs to be done to take Zim film industry to the next level?
I would say we need more workshops with experienced and seasoned actors/actresses even with producers and directors from well established industries to share their journeys. We can even do with small and big media house collaborations within our industry. Some have the talent but no gear and vice versa. There is need for more distribution channels so that our artists get some incentives for their efforts whether small or big. At the end of the day it’s a business. Speaking of it being a business, we need to educate ourselves on the business side of production especially when it comes to drawing up budgets, approaching potential investors e.t.c.. It’s not all about picking up a camera and shouting “action”.– Chester Munakamwe
Any future projects you are working on?
Yes, there are a couple of screenplays that are ready to go. We need to take our time and do much better this time around, applying what we’ve learnt on the Money Matters project. I am sure by the end of the year we’ll be rolling out some great material.– Chester Munakamwe