A few weeks ago, I tossed a die on Snakes and Ladders hoping to spoil myself with the movie that features a balanced combination of geriatrics of the entertainment industry and newbies. Prominent among them is Marlon Changa Kalumba who appeared in City on Fire. Here is what I saw:
A plain-clothed policeman nabs a man who sold a stolen phone to another man. The cop pulls a gun and shepherds the suspect away uncuffed – to a place that we take it is a police station because we are told so. The scene is as calm as when sheep is being taken for slaughter. Okay, I’ve never seen one but I’ve read about sheep slaughter in religious literature – I don’t know about you. Believe me, there would be no excuse for police brutality if all arrests were like that.
Quite alright, the police have a duty to apprehend suspects – no problem with that. But here is my problem: Of course, I was not expecting the policeman to flash his identification card, point a gun at the suspect and say, “Detective So-and-so, LAPD, don’t move, you are under arrest, turn around and put your hands behind your back. You have the right to remain silent and everything you say will be used against you in the courts of law…” Zambia Police don’t say that, how much less so in a film! But I bet on him saying something policelike and handcuff the criminal before taking him to the police station.
I know that Zambia police have their own way of taking in suspects. If the suspect tries to explain something, they say, “Uzakambila ku sogolo.” (You will explain at the police station). In any cases, they handcuff the suspect.
But the Snakes and Ladders officer doesn’t identify himself and doesn’t handcuff the suspect. Worse still, he leaves behind the person who bought the stolen phone when in fact he was supposed to be taken along to attest to the felon or for being in possession of a stolen item. Where, then, is the reality that they claim to portray in movies?
What I have observed about Zambian movie makers is that they fear professionalism. It’s not that there are no professional film editors, there are there. Just that the writers don’t want to spend a lot of money on editing. Hey, what about those we see in the credits, are they not professional editors? If they are, why do we see so many blunders? I know this is a blanket conclusion but maybe it is the conclusion that is needed to shove some producers in the right direction.
The other vital step they bypass is research. During the process of penning a script, the writer must leave the pen for a while and observe events in real life. Even interviewing people is helpful. For example, if I’m writing a part that involves the police apprehending a suspect, I will do well to ask the police themselves how they do their work. Guess work will stagnate the movie industry if not draw it backwards.
Observing the views of the audience from a distance is also vital, especially with soaps. In the abundance of viewers, there are those who joyfully assimilate anything brought to their screens, but still there is no shortage of eagle-eyed ones who want to see sense in what they watch. These are the ones that want to scream for real when watching something scary on the screen.
I like to read such views from a Facebook page named Friends Who Like Zambezi Magic. It’s a page started by an interested individual and it teams with all sorts of reviewers. I don’t know if writers take time to see critic on such media. If they did, they would see things through the eyes of their audience and they would move in tandem. This is not to say writers must align their entire story with what viewers say. It can’t happen like that because the author is the one who has the concept. However, in a soap, which some prefer to call telenovela even when it’s not from Latin America, ideas come as the movie progresses and the audience can command a measure of influence.
If you hear a lot of complaints from the viewers, it means something somewhere is not well, and that the author and his audience are not in agreement. The two must be there for each other.