Botswana can grow a bustling film industry – US Actress, Nayo Wallace
Botswana’s moribund film industry appears poised for a dramatic revival, with the production of an independent commercially viable feature film complete with a trailer, for the American Film Market ( AFM) in November 2021.
Executive producer Eddie Bannerman says that no one has an independent film in Botswana because the corporate sector is not sponsoring films as they do not see any future in the local film industry. “The corporate sector will not put money in a film unless they are going to get returns,” he told Botswana Guardian in an interview Tuesday at Avani hotel. He added, “If it doesn’t make financial sense they will not do it”.
Two prominent productions - The No. 1 Ladies Detective and A United Kingdom – had all the hallmarks of box office films, but have since dismally failed to benefit or grow the local film industry. But the new film project – Greed the Film – intends to provide a launching pad for a “re- imagined domestic film industry that can produce movies for the international market”.
Its four promoters - Kgomotso Keloneilwe; Imani Archibald Seboni; Edmund Bannerman and Mid Mariore – all boasting extensive experience in their own right, envisage the film to transform the Botswana film industry, thus creating employment opportunities in various creative fields for the youth.
Additionally, the film will use local lead actors that are appropriately trained for the screen and a technical team majority of whom are based in Botswana and available for future projects and for the necessary skills transfer. To get the ball rolling in terms of acting and to ensure the film meets international standards, American Actress and Hollywood star, Nayo Wallace, best known for her roles on Speed Racer as Minx, has been enlisted.
She arrived in Botswana on August 25th and has been coaching local actors ever since. She returns on September 12th. She had already met 19 actors of varying experiences and ages all of whose talents, creativity, and potential she extolled highly when we caught up with her for an exclusive interview this week. Bannerman says their strategy is to do an independent full- length film – two hours or so - put it into Netflix or some other internationallyrecognised platform and get people to buy it outside. Hopefully, the film’s quality in terms of acting, cinematography, shots, locations, and others, will cause the international community to take an interest in Botswana. Nayo’s coaching involves spending at least an hour and a half with each artist and really getting specific with them, diving into their character’s development, the importance of the artist and their voice, and how to use that and how to give back and how the artist can change the world. “I believe that artists change the world, and so it’s a completely different experience for me, and I am so moved,” Nayo said. First of all, she is here because of her passion for art, secondly, because she loves Africa and wants to give back to it some of her three- decade experience.
Nayo is tired of the West’s narrative of Africa because it generally comes from people who haven’t been here and who do not know the people and the continent. That is why she is “really passionate” about the idea of having the creatives and the youth of this country getting funding, stimulating the industry, having a voice, creating art that rivals the West, and being able to get their word out about who they are, what they want, what drives them and what they are creating for themselves. She is confident that Botswana can have a thriving film industry if only the artists can get funding, especially since they already have the creativity and talent. “You have the creativity, you have the talent, you just need the money, you need people investing in Batswana and the talent that is here, because it is here,” Nayo emphasised. She imagines a time when instead of sending money elsewhere, investing in other countries, in other artists and other people that “you did it here and you started to create your own reality a commercially viable industry, telling your own stories”! She believes that not only will this make the voices of local artists heard and get their narratives out into the world, “but you would put yourself in the driver’s seat”.
That is in the sense that they would “get the world to see who you are in the way that you want them to know you as opposed to whatever they are making of you, whatever they are creating and whatever stories they want to tell”!
Nayo just loves the actors she has since interacted with. Even as they thank her for introducing them to a new way of working in their art, a new way of thinking, the experience has equally been life- changing for her.
“To be here with the artists, and to see them bringing in their hearts, bringing in their souls, they are trusting me, they are letting me in into their hearts and letting me guide them and hopefully uplift them and inspire them to have the courage to know that they can also go out and create on their own stories has changed me.”
Asked what the actors need the most, she says it is somewhat universal – permission. “It is like you come into a space and you’re uncertain. How do I behave in this space, because, before we are artists we are human, and so as human beings, we are flawed.
“We have fears, we have insecurities, we may not know what is appropriate, and being newer in a certain area or meeting someone that is a complete stranger to you sometimes can make you more reserved or unsure. “And so sometimes someone can say, hey just go for it, just do whatever you want, whatever is there, let’s play – it’s just the permission, just the advice or the coaching, but it’s like granting an allowance and space to live out whatever it is that is happening creatively inside of you. “That can be magic for an artist and also, something that is huge is to see yourself represented, representation is priceless”. The film, Greed is a rollercoaster thriller about a good man who loses his beautiful daughter and has to navigate the system to get justice. Nayo is able to relate to it because “it’s such a human story”.
According to the project’s summary, the film’s rationale is premised on the fact that the Movie and TV Series content suppliers’ industry has been experiencing “a boom” even before the COVID era as streaming service providers have realised increased viewership with the advent of “fibre driven Internet speed”.
It is argued that over the past 10 years, there has been an approximate 70 percent increase in subscriptions for streamed content on Smart TV’s and Mobile Phones and that these will eventually relegate all else to the stone- age era.
“With a wide range of viewership, there is a need for good quality content and the need exists right now,” hence this film, which is arguably the first full length feature movie produced in Botswana specifically targeting the international market.