PFP undertook a six week Mobile Film Festival in Malawi as part of its distribution programme in rural areas of the country in partnership with locally operating NGOs. The aim was to bring crucial life-changing information to as many people as possible by means of PFP’s four existing Malawian films and the introduction of a new digital magazine, Kugawana.
Kugawana, which mean sharing, is a DVD collection in Chichewa of short films and clips of films by PFP and other contributors. The films selected for the first digital magazine cover a wide range of topics from health issues to agriculture to disability awareness.
During the six week festival we used our new pedal-powered ‘Backpack Cinema’ that weighs less than 18 kgs and is conveniently packed in two backpacks so that it can be easily conveyed over the roughest terrain by only two people. The whole system, being easily transportable and obviating the need for a diesel generator or electricity supply, overcomes many of the obstacles in bringing film to the remotest areas of Malawi.
Our UK Representative, George Salt, along with the local distribution team, Steward Mgombo and Lemani Makina, pedalled the equivalent of approximately 1000kms, carried out 40 screenings travelling 1500kms up and down the length of the country. Working with 14 NGO’s they managed to reach audiences in excess of 9,500 people, many living in very remote areas.
The festival also highlighted to us once again the importance of facilitated discussions following each screening. They provided an opportunity to bring issues very relevant to the communities out into the open, producing much laughter and promoting lively discussions.
By establishing working distribution partners, training up local distribution managers and distributing DVDs, PFP hope to ensure the sustainability of our distribution programme plans for Malawi, providing an opportunity for the films to have a lasting impact.
Blantyre and Mulanje
After 5 and half weeks of travelling and screening around rural Malawi, we finally hit the metropolis of Blantyre, which, despite being the country’s business district, still seems calm, clean and friendly.
A very passionate representative from local NGO, SRGDI (Sustainable Rural Growth Development Initiative), took us 20km out of the city to Chikuli trading centre for an evening screening with an enthusiastic audience who really got into debating the issues of Mbeu Yosintha.
The next day, we travelled 40km south to Nkando trading centre, 20km from Mulanje, the epic mount Mulanje shimmering through the heat haze. Our friendly rep from REFORD took us on a tour into town, past vast tea plantations and onto the lower slopes of the lush, green mountain.
We had a great double-bill that evening of both Mawa Langa and Mbeu Yosintha, with insightful discussions from the area’s younger members, who excitedly cheered each other on.
And then we came back to Blantyre and arrived at the big four-oh! Our final screening was at Blantyre Secondary School with MANAD. It was unique to all the previous 39, the audience being made up of deaf members of the community. It was pretty amazing to see them engaging with Mawa Langa and then discuss the characters and issues in great detail – one aspiring filmmaker even pointed out the storyboarding and directing tips he’d picked up – another first for the Kugawana festival.
And that pretty much sums up our experience over the past 6 weeks. We have shown PFP’s fantastic, educational dramas across the length and breadth of Malawi – and every single screening and audience has been memorable and special in its own way. From the reactions to the comments; from the venues to the ever-changing beauty of the country – it has been one special journey.