Zimlegends Talks with Jesese Mungoshi

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Interview by Zimlegends

Article by Elizabeth D.T. Taderera

Zimlegends recently sat down for an interview with Jesese Mungoshi an actor in her own right, as well as the wife of the late writer, Charles Mungoshi. Her most famous role is in the Zimbabwean film “Neria” where she played the title character. Mrs. Mungoshi told Zimlegends that growing up she loved dancing at the Growth Point. She was taught by her brothers to play the pen whistle. She always wished to become a singer after school but that did not go as planned and she became an actress. She tells Zimlegends that she never knew town life (urban life), she was born and grew up in the rural areas. She only came to the urban areas after she finished her secondary education where she met Mr. Charles Mungoshi and they got married.

Mrs. Mungoshi went on to tell Zimlegends that in 1985 ZBC introduced drama series and they approached Mr. Mungoshi so that he could work with actors and produce the first drama series. Mrs. Mungoshi said that she wanted to show her husband all the support he needed hence she asked him if she could take part in some of the roles in the drama series. She told Zimlegends “writers live a very lonely life, and I really wanted him to know that I support him 100%”, hence she wanted to do everything with him and therefore she was cast for her first role in “Yangove Njake Njake”.

After that role, she continued to do many other dramas like “Ndabve Zera” that was written by Aaron Chiundura Moyo. She said people did not quite accept the role she played of a woman who wanted equal rights, “I had trouble moving about in the streets as people could not quite separate the role from me and they even wanted to beat me up”.

In 1989 she did a role for an international television series for some Canadian filmmakers who wanted to do a film in Zimbabwe. She said this opened many doors for her as she met John Riber, producer of Neria, and got a role for the film that was released in 1992. Mrs. Mungoshi says someone once asked if she can outdo the role she played in Neria and her answer was she can do it by doing another big hit. She recalls Mr. Mungoshi’s eagerness to produce a better book than the previous book he had published, “it is the same with me, I wouldn’t do a film that wouldn’t be as good as the first one”. When asked why there was a long silence after the release of “Neria” she told Zimlegends she cannot say Zimbabwe has a film industry per se, “because though we are shooting films, we have low resources and that hinders us from producing professional films.”

In 2017 she was part of a film called “Cook Off”. She talks of the trouble they faced with lack of resources such as proper shoot locations, transportation to go to shoot locations, and food as there was no money for such items but she says it was done professionally and that was the reason why she opted to be part of it. She says “with “Cook Off” I see light, because if these young ones can come together for a good cause with the same heart and mind, we have many stories in Zimbabwe and we have to tell our stories”.

After “Neria” she switched from acting to running a production house for film, but she did not get the opportunity to do exactly what she wanted because she was working with those who had studied film. She wanted to turn Mr. Mungoshi’s books into film. They started with documentaries and one of her documentaries won an award at the Harare International Film Festival in 2014 as one of the Best Documentaries. The Documentary was based on the story of the late President Samora Machel. The documentary is called “Cammarada Presidente”.

When asked about helping the film industry in Zimbabwe, Mrs. Mungoshi said “we have a film community where we need to come together as filmmakers, this will open doors for filmmakers in Zimbabwe to get investors from those outside Zim”. She talked about a film that was made in 2019 under U.N called “Shaina”, a Zimbabwean production and she acknowledges that it was filled with talented actors. She said she had the opportunity to work with 3 generations from her generation in that film and she enjoyed it. She says “you still learn from those kids”.

Mrs. Mungoshi told Zimlegends that things started to change from the year 2000 as all the donors left Zimbabwe and our economy had take a downturn. She hopes for a film that would surpass the old films. She mentions US-based Zimbabwean actress Danai Gurira and calls for making use of such renowned actors to market Zimbabwean talent and films. She also said we should not make films and shelve them but we must market them. She calls on filmmakers to work on marketing their work as there is a lack of marketing strategies.

Mrs. Mungoshi closed by saying “when we do a film it should reach far, we shouldn’t lose heart as filmmakers and actors, we are very good, there is a lot of talent, potential and energy, and we must come together and see how best we can build our film industry.