Mlandu Wanjinga/ Case of a bicycle. A film by Elson Kambalu. An interview with Self
From 6th April to 9th April, I am premiering my movie, Mlandu Wa Njinga/ Case of a Bicycle, which I wrote and directed, at Crossroads Hotel Auditorium, in Lilongwe, Malawi. In this self interview, I give a glimpse into my journey to have made it this far. Enjoy.
Two years has passed by, how has the journey been like?
Not easy and yet exciting. Film is demanding. There is need for resources, space, time and harmony. And in most parts we had to improvise. I remember scavenging through garbage, looking for home decor. There is a shop downtown that sells second hand. That’s where I got my lights. Found myself a good electrician and we improvised. We used a single camera, repeating scenes with an aim to get as many angles as possible.
I found myself looking at the faces in the streets. I picked whosoever I liked and thought fitted the role…
You mean they are not trained actors?
No. They have never acted before save for the two that appeared in my 16 minute short movie, Going South. The first thing they would say is ‘ but we have never acted before!’ To me what I saw was enough. The physical aspect was the ultimate at that point and the rest, they would be instructed. That’s how we set about doing the movie.
What is it all about? The movie?
Mlandu Wa Njinga is a 2 hour fictitious movie that follows a young man, Ntaja, played by Ralpha Luga, who is released from prison after 8 years and he immediately begins to look for a woman, named Anna ( Played by Princess Tapiwa Chilambula) whom he had wanted to marry prior incarceration.
You are a visual Artist..Are you crossing over to films?
I still consider myself as a visual artist with the desire to extend my practice by using new art forms. I find film to be all encompassing because it allows me to express myself beyond static art. Often times whenever I paint, a family comes by, pay for the painting and hangs it up in the privacy of their homes where it inspires a few. Unlike visual arts, Film is for the multitude. I anticipate Film as a tool with a propensity to reach millions of households, transforming minds in the process.
In this film, I was able to compose choral songs, a hip hop song, a jazz song. I used the skills of very promising artists in the name of Jaco Jana, Malala, Agorosso and Madalitso Band, who have done a tremendous job. I further went to compose music score for the film, by mouth into my phone, and then later engaged a professional musician, JJ Munthali, to transform it into reality. In this film I was able to design clothes for the actors and also went ahead to create paintings and sculpture for some scenes in the movie. In this film I wrote the script, stood behind the camera to take all those wonderful pictures you will see in the movie. As you can see, this has been an eye opener for me. The process of making the film opened doors to the many faculties I never knew existed within me. Film is a complete art form.
Your favorite Actor in the movie?
No. I cant choose. They all acted well. Whilst it was easy to work with some of them, others were difficult. I remember changing a character after shooting 7 scenes. He made me insecure and just discovered I was changing my script to suit him. I woke up one day and told him I was sorry. We needed to change.
Major influence? What motivated you to create Mlandu Wa Njinga
On Malawian film scene, Shemuh Joyah remains my strong influence because he came on the scene and gave film a meaning. For the first time people were able to give attention to locally made films.
My motivation came on the heels of winning two awards for my 16 minute short movie, called Going South, in 2015. This was at the Lilongwe International Short Film Festival, an initiative by Lake of Stars. I remember driving home ecstatic and in the process conceiving the idea for the movie.
Whats the future for Mlandu Wa Njinga?
We have already began applying for African Film Festivals happening all over the world. Come April and May, Malawi will be busy. The first premiere is taking place in Lilongwe from the 6th April to 9th April, 2017. Then Blantyre , Zomba and Mzuzu. We will end up visiting Universities for screening,
Equipment. Sometimes the camera would go off and we would wait for a technician to put it up together. Sometimes that would extend to two weeks.
Finances. Were no easy t come by. If you are working with more than 250 extras, you are surely going to pay dearly.
Electricity. In a country with so many blackouts, both the actual shooting and post production suffered. And sometimes we would wait till midnight to resume work in the studio
And Prospects for Audience response?
I love the movie and I hope the audience will fall in love with it