"I just wanted to show you a little bit of what Tanzanians are doing considering we are generally overshadowed by Kenya, SA and West Africa, but we have some good stuff happening here as well. We shot 'Homecoming' on a Red Epic Dragon and I wrote, directed and produced the film myself and it centers on examining corruption in Tanzania through the fresh eyes of a returnee. It starts off as a morality tale that develops into a thriller." ~ Seko Shamte, director "Homecoming."
And she would be right about Tanzanian cinema being overlooked, as South Africa, as well as key countries in the west and east of the continent (Nigeria, Kenya, and others) get much of the international press. But it's a country without what I'd call a rich local film history. We've seen documentaries (and a few works of fiction) about aspects of Tanzania, typically made by non-Tanzanians (and usually non-Africans), but you'd have to think really hard about specifically feature-length fiction films made in Tanzania, by Tanzanians, and starring Tanzanian actors.
As Tanzanian filmmaker Beatrix Mugishagwe (director of one of a few feature-length films in recent years that fit the above criteria - "Tumaini," in 2005) said in an interview with the African Women in Cinema blog in 2010, when asked about the state of cinema in Tanzania: "Cinema? If am honest, it hardly exists; after the demise of the Tanzania Film Company as well as the Tanzania Audio Visual in the late eighties, most of those people who were trained in various aspects of filmmaking simply gave up and looked for other jobs to survive. Film/Cinema as we know it simply died in Tanzania till in the mid-nineties when the medium of television brought the art of visual storytelling back to Tanzania - this time though in a different manner. Anybody who could get a camcorder and editing facility became a PRODUZA (this is a bastardization form of producer here) cum Director. That was what the democratization of equipment has meant to the Tanzania film landscape. A curse and maybe a blessing at the same time. A curse in the sense that what is globally accepted as minimum production value does not count in most productions in Tanzania. This leads to marginalization of the content out of Tanzania. A blessing in as much as I see a chance of developing a particular brand of films not encumbered by the western or eastern ideals and values of visual narration - I am ambivalent of this though, because I believe in knowing the rules first in order to break them effectively for my own use - our PRODUZAs just have the latest equipment and not the basic film education."
Read more from that interview here.
Seko Shamte is working to add her voice to this ongoing conversation. She owns a production company called Alkemist Media, and has made documentaries, including a critically-acclaimed film about the late, great Tanzanian chief who defeated the Germans during colonialism, titled Mkwawa (for Chief Mkwawa).
Seko also produced a television show called, "The Team" which you can actually find on YouTube.
The filmmaker has now completed and released her first feature film titled "Homecoming," which opened in theaters in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) last year, where she tells me it played exceptionally well to audiences.
"Homecoming" tells the story of Abel, a 28-year-old young man who returns home after graduating and working in the USA for 10 years, and joins the Tanzanian corporate world where his ethics and morals are tested and he is forced to make choices about the person he wants to become. A coming-of-age tale, Abel leaves the USA under mysterious circumstances that become increasingly clear as the film progresses. He moves in with his uncle, a former government minister in Dar es Salaam, while his father, a retired teacher, lives in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. He begins work at a multi-national bank based in the city under the tutelage of his immediate boss, Alpha Mbwana, and his MD, Michael Kauffmann, and eventually uncovers a plot that throws his values into question and his life in danger.
Seko has set up a website for the film which you can access here: www.homecomingtz.com.
Unfortunately, the film is not widely available at this time, but the filmmaker says that she hopes to find an online home for it, so that audiences anywhere can watch it! It may also get some film festival play.
In the meantime, check out the trailer for "Homecoming" below. I like what I see here, and I'm looking forward to checking out the full film eventually.