Youth and adults
Ndodii? (What shall I do?) is set in a remote village in Zimbabwe, the film depicts the impact of HIV/AIDS on the traditional practice of wife inheritance. MaMoyo, an HIV+ widow, is instructed by her elders to choose a new husband. Faced with the reality of being ostracized and blamed for her husband’s death, she is challenged with the choice of breaking tradition.
Questions For Discussion
- What is this film about?
- MaMoyo has to marry someone from her dead husband’s family. Why does the widow not want to choose another husband?
- What is the potential danger with this practice in terms of the spread of HIV?
- What other cultural practices that you know of could potentially lead to the transmission of HIV?
- Why did her husband’s family accuse her of being a witch?
- MaMoyo is honest about her status and breaks with tradition. What makes this a difficult decision and do you sympathise with her? What else could she have done?
Farai Matambidzanwa, was born in Gokwe, Zimbabwe, attended Mass Communication studies , Harare Polytechnic). Attended several documentary and short film production courses run by Zimbabwe broadcasting Corporation, Television Training Center (Berlin) and Nordic-SADC Journalism Center. Editor for ZBC in the News, Drama, Musical, Documentary and short films departments for nine years (1987-1996). Has also worked as a freelance editor for several independent production houses such as Channel Nine of Australia and Media Associates. Directed several documentaries that include Silent Shame, 30 Years of Hope, Africa’s Children: The Silent Majority and Listening to the Poor and a few musicals.Worked on several pictures as director of photography.
1. Briefly describe what your film is essentially about?
Ndodii (What Shall I Do)? is the story of an HIV Positive widow MaMoyo, who survives Kugarwa Nhaka (Wife Inheritance). The story of how her willingness to break the silence on what took her husband’s life almost destroys the beautiful relationship she has with her in-laws. The pain she goes through in confronting this terrible experience while trying to cope with her own new life (life without her husband).
2. What was your experience in the making of your film?
This is my first short film having been a Cutter for over ten years. Even though I knew what I wanted and confident I would never ‘cross the line’, I must admit here that the idea of directing over thirty five villagers, a Producer who’s been there and back, a crew of city sleekers and a highly experienced DOP (Patrick Lindsell), gave me the jitters at first. (Most DOPs get highly irritable around 1000Hrs if they haven’t had their Cheese-Burger). Some Producers doze off on set and wake up in the middle of an action and yell for a cover shot, (spatial orientation my foot). But because I had a picture to make, I felt challenged. So, I humbled myself, gave everyone due respect, praised them at every stage and prayed that none of them would get irritated, walk away and spoil my film. I think it paid off.
I think the most beautiful part of this project was working with a whole cast of beginners. Even though I had television experience, I was a beginner too in all respects here. The leading ‘actress’ was a beginner too, because, even though all the scenes were recreated, I needed my story to be as real as possible by using someone the Zimbabwean audience had not seen on national television before.
For the villagers, everything was a mystery. In fact they had not been filmed or videotaped before and had no script. They adlibbed throughout the scene. Looking back, I think the idea of using villagers became a blessing in disguise. May be using professional actors (people from the city) to recreate the ceremony could not have given my story the authenticity I was looking for.
3. How would you describe the value of the message embodied in your film, to potential audiences?
Most black Zimbabweans still follow their customs such as Kugara Nhaka (Wife Inheritance). Due to the high cost of Bride Price (a beautiful, well educated Shona girl can ‘cost’ up to Z$100 000, add 10-15 head of cattle. So when the husband dies the bride (now referred to as Muroora or daughter-in-law) has to remain in the family for that reason, Pfuma (bride price) which was paid to her people. There are other minor reasons, of course, such as continuity – making more children for the family, taking care of her children in this environment. (The children belong to the husband because Shona culture is patriarchal). Not to mention that some lucky guy in the family would have found a new ‘already paid for’ wife.
The Aids pandemic has, however, caused terrible distortions in what was once a beautiful tradition. Even though statistics have not been collected, many ‘inheritors’ and their wives have died after inheriting HIV Positive widows, leaving behind double the number of orphans.
Of late, according to results of the FGD (focus group discussion), village folks have been discouraging this practice for fear of the ‘unknown’. However, the village mechanisms of dealing with such customary issues are no longer strong. Political structures have usurped the power of the traditional leadership, hence the appeal to the media by the traditional leadership to use Radio and Television to teach people to desist from such practises which, though good yesterday, are a death trap today.
Ndodii (What Shall I Do)? is therefore a short film which I think will have a wider audience and make the Shona society of Zimbabwe, ask itself if there is still room for wife inheritance.
4. How would you describe your film in the context of HIV/AIDS?
Various forms of media have been used by various organisations in fighting the Aids pandemic in Zimbabwe but the results have been very disappointing. Today when you flight a Radio or Television program on Aids, the audiences are very few. You might say a lot of these programs either sent conflicting messages and confused their target audiences or caused what many in the advocacy business have come to refer to as Aids Awareness Fatigue.
One of the many reasons has perhaps been that most of these Radio and Television programs have been produced en masse, by experts, for experts and presented in the esoteric jargon of their professions. Too many self-opinionated experts on Radio and Television talk shows meant to change viewers sexual habits vis-ˆ-vis the Aids pandemic. There have also been Aids Awareness Campaigns (Radio and Television spots) that were culturally insensitive. For instance, black kids talking about sex and condoms on national television when their fathers or mothers are watching the same Television with their in-laws.
In the design of the message for Ndodii?, we made sure we do not send any conflicting messages but instead, run away from the stereotypes that viewers are always subjected to in our local media. Its message is threefold and very clear; if you inherit an HIV positive widow you are likely to contract the virus too. If you are HIV positive come out and avoid spreading the disease knowingly, for the sake of tradition or any other reason. Thirdly, being HIV positive does not necessarily mean the end of the road, as it were, but that one can live positively with the virus for a lot more years.
Ndodii? also aims to empower women who have always been powerless, in most societies really, to stand up and make a choice.
This will be the first time the Zimbabwean audience will receive such a direct message on the link between HIV/Aids and one of their beautiful customs, wife inheritance. An Aids message that respects their tradition, even asks for their opinion at the end, and above all, is played by folks, just like them.