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I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Monday, August 25, 2008

FLAME (RHODESIAN CONFLICT MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN FIGHTERS)


Flame - Director's Intentions

From 1972 to 1980 there was civil war in Zimbabwe. We know about the heroes. Yes, they are buried in Heroes Acre, a high kopje that overlooks the town. And they are all men.

There are few accounts of what really happened, what life was really like for those who fought. How they suffered, their bravery, and their hardships. And there is no account at all of what happened to the women who fought beside the men.

So we live in a country where not long ago women were fighting, commanding men and other women: carrying dangerous war materials on their heads across wild bush filled with mines -- and no-one wants to know. So .... They keep quiet and some have nightmares, some will never marry, many have children who do not know their fathers. They are 'difficult' women.

"These are strange times. Strange times indeed. Times when you go home to a bunch of war-born kids and wonder how you can make them understand your strange outcome in life. Explain why you belong to the most jobless and unmarried group of women in society. And how this should become a fact of life to be checked not abused. To be incorporated, not discarded."
(Neka Kazingizi, ex-combatant mother of three. Written in 1998)

I want to make FLAME because the stories of these women have never been told. It's a tribute to their bravery, and also a reminder of how strong they really are. They must use their strength to push themselves forward. No government and no society is going to give them what they want. They must take it for themselves.

And behind their stories lies a universal theme that women everywhere recognise -- the fight for independence, and then the isolation and disregard and suppression that follows.

It's time to show African women in a universal light. They're shown as victims, courageously struggling imbued with wisdom of the earth. Born to die as slaves of circumstance. In other words, different from women in developed countries. I want to go beyond difference to show similarities: their loves and hopes, their failings, their stubborness, their vanity, even their cruelty -- women as full human beings with every nuance and shade of emotion.

It's a film that appeals to the emotions, although it takes place against a historical background. The style therefore reflects these two qualities: partly using a 'documentary' style to give a feeling of realism, and partly a more composed view to bring us close and steady to the humanity and softness of the characters in the film.

Whilst the backdrop is particular, the story is universal. Two friends see life together, fight for independence together, and go their separate ways. After many years, they meet again. At first, it seems as if they have drifted too far apart, but gradually they recognise a common aim - to keep their hard won independence. Realising each other's strengths, they can be friends again, but in a new way. Their friendship can take them forward, and together they understand that they must not try to forget the past, nor ignore the changes of the present.

Flame - Synopsis

Florence and her friend Nyasha are two fifteen year old girls living in a small village in Rhodesia. It's 1975, and the war of Liberation is hotting up, but the pretty Florence's main concern is to marry a man who can "look after her", while Nyasha, the better educated of the two, wants to get a job in the city. One night, a group of freedom fighters arrive at the village to ask for volunteers. They offer training and scholarships, together with the glory of fighting for freedom. Florence falls for their charismatic leader Comrade Danger. Nyasha believes in what he says.

Florence's father Fredrick is too strict to let her go, but soon after the Comrades' visit, the local store keeper settles a debt with him by denouncing him to the Rhodesian authorities. Soldiers come to the village looking for information about the "terrorists", and when Fredrick won't talk he's arrested.

Florence and Nyasha secretly decide to join the Freedom Fighters, Florence hoping to find Danger, and Naysha expecting to get a study scholarship. They embark on the long and dangerous journey across a war torn Rhodesia to a military camp deep in the Mozambican bush. Slowly their innocence begins to crack as the reality of war seeps in. But while Nyasha wants to go back home, Florence is driven by her romantic love for danger and she pulls them through.

Once at the camp it's a new world, and the start of their own journey towards independence. They're shocked and delighted to find women wearing trousers and behaving as equals with the men. But their excitement is severely dented when instead of a welcome, they are thrown into a prison suspected of being spies.

Eventually they are accepted, choose their war names, and training begins. Florence is now 'Flame', and Nyasha 'Liberty'. Flame finds her Comrade Danger just before he leaves for the front, and their romance is sealed. Flame decides to excel in the harsh military training, so Danger can be proud of her and they can fight together.

The training is very harsh. The trainees are often on the verge of starvation. Some of the Chefs use food to get sexual favours. Flame becomes involved with a Chef called Che. But she is not happy with the compromise, and she despairs. Liberty pulls Flame out of her despair by urging her to fight back. At that point Flame gets news from home. Her father has died in detention. Killed by the Rhodesians.

Pushing aside her own traumas Flame decides to avenge her father. She becomes driven by anger and hatred.

The next day, the girls leave on their first mission carrying war materials across the border to the Rhodesian front. At a village that has been attacked by Rhodesians, Flame kills a lone white soldier. It's the start of her revenge. Her excellence in training has paid off, but to her despair she finds she is pregnant. She's furious -- the child will hinder her plan. When they return to camp, Che is about to leave. Flame keeps quiet about the child. She fears he will prevent her from returning to the front and getting the revenge she so badly wants herself.

Liberty tries to persuade Flame to leave the camp and battle front and train as a Military instructor, but Flame depressed refuses. Her son is born in the back of a truck with no-one but Liberty to help. To her surprise, Flame loves her little son Hondo.

After three months, Che returns. He hears of the child, and asks to see him. Flame takes Hondo to meet his father. Che is proud of his son, but makes no move to claim him. Flame decides it is time for her to go forward with her plan of revenge. Leaving her baby at the base, she goes back to the front.

One night she finds herself near her old village. She leaves her patrol, and alone in the night savagely sets fire to the store of the man who denounced her father. She prepares to kill the store keeper, but lets him go when he confesses his guilt. On another mission, still driven by the memory of her father, she persuades her commander to ambush some Rhodesian soldiers. Against all odds they succeed, Flame killing viciously and expertly. At the very moment her revenge is completed, Flame notices three bomber planes flying overhead. Unknown to her, they are on a raid to the base camp. In the massacre, Che and her son are killed.

Flame is thrown into despair once more. Again, Liberty tries to pull Flame out of her cycle of reaction, but Danger intervenes and calls her bach to the front. Liberty begs her to look after herself, instead of always reacting to others. Furious Flame chooses Danger, and Liberty walks out of her life.

Flame is promoted to Commander, first of a small detachment, later of a company. She becomes a distinguished fighter. But she is angry, mad, despairing. Revenge has not made her happy. As victory is announced at a stirring ceremony, she meets up with Danger again. He asks her to marry him. The Commander in Chief of the army spots her, and hoists her up onto his shoulders, parading her in front of the crowd. He salutes the women who fought in the war. "We will never forget the women of this land", he calls.

Fifteen years later, Florence is destitute. With no qualifications, Florence has gone back home with Danger to the life of a peasant. The new Government has given them nothing, and Danger has turned to drink. Flame decides to leave him, and for the first time in her life to stand alone. In the drought her three children and her mother are hungry. She decides to go to town to find her old comrade Liberty.

Their meeting at Liberty's workplace is emotional. Liberty has done well, but she is lonely and isolated. At first she doesn't want to remember the terrors of the war. Florence, her only friend, persuades her to think back and begin to accept the past. At the same time, Florence is now ready to stand on her own two feet, to act for herself, and she has come so Nyasha can help her do it. Nyasha reads out a quote from their old political education classes in the camp. "We can learn what we did not know. We are not only good at destroying the old world, we are also good at building the new". At last the two women can come together again, sharing their pain and their achievements. An embrace of friendship renewed gives them the strength to face the future, Nyasha at peace with herself, and Flame full of self determination.

Flame - the Cast

"When you look at the pictures of the Freedom Fighters, what strikes you is their youth and vigour," says Andrew Whaley, the casting director of the feature film Flame. Matching this was the challenge when selecting the cast for this Zimbabwean production.

It was quite clear from the start that they weren't looking for people with a '90s attitude or accents. Flame is about two rural girls and capturing the authenticity of the village was a further challenge. It was also very difficult to find someone who could do the wide range of emotions required by the role. Says Whaley: "We were looking for girls who could represent African beauty, rural beauty - not a commercial, urban gloss - who were not skin deep."

The casting team was looking for a Flame who was physically strong, radiated health and life and with a voice and manner that clearly suggested a rural background. For Nyasha they wanted someone neat and self-possessed with a touch of vulnerability, who can't cope with the business of war. Marian Kunonga, who was eventually cast for Flame, and Ulla Mahaka as her friend Liberty, have both justified the faith the casting team had in taking a chance with inexperienced Zimbabwean actresses.

Kunonga has a strong face and beautiful eyes with a solemn, graceful beauty that grows on you. She actually is a professional actress, but this was not the reason for choosing her, as she had no experience of working in front of a camera. Whaley elaborates on why he was happy with their decision to cast her: "She has feeling and is able to evoke feeling. Also, there are lots of people around with strange accents - she has beautiful clear Shona inflections."

Kunonga is now working full time with the Amakhose Theatre Group in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo. Mahaka, with her contrasting looks and personality, has some experience in front of the camera, having done some commercials and appeared in international productions being shot in Zimbabwe. She married shortly after the filming of Flame finished and recently has had a child.

The men in the film could all be older than the girls, as they were in the actual war. So more of them had acting experience - although Pelagia Viagi who plays Flame's mother is a notable exception.

Lawrence Simbarashe as Mlkondo is a well-known face on Zimbabwe's television screens and has appeared in some of the international films shot in the country.

Moise Matura. who plays the complex role of Che, is a young actor who has had some professional experience acting in Germany.

Philip Mushangwe, as Flame's father, has his own enormously popular television series called Parafini and Simon Shumba, who plays his enemy Chiwara, is also a very well-known comedian who has been in a number of films and television dramas.

Dick Chigaira Makoni, or as he is popularly known, Comrade Chinx, plays Rapo, the choirmaster. In this role he essentially plays himself - he was a famous choirmaster and fighter during the war.

Flame's leading man, Danger, is played by Norman Madawo. Madawo was spotted at the Polytechnic in Harare, as someone who had the right "look" and once he had auditioned, quickly showed he had the ability too. This is his first time he has acted professionally.

Flame - Media Quotes

"The place: the glitzy Cannes Film Festival, second in filmdom prestige only to the Oscars, and now in full swing in the south of France. The occasion: the showing last Sunday of the movie that nearly almost never was. And if you think that sounds like a Hollywood happy ending cliché, perhaps to be made even happier by the winning the coveted Camera d'Or trophy ... well you could have a point.

But on the other hand, you also have what is by all reports a rather good film. Made in Zimbabwe, Flame is said to be the first feature film to depict the bush war in what was then Rhodesia. Early this year, negatives were seized by police in Harare (mutterings about obscenity), casting a shadow over the future of the country's small movie industry."
Adrian Monteath

"Police in Harare seize negatives of film based on Zimbabwe's liberation war, after allegations that it contained subversive information and some of its parts were pornographic. Police said they would seek the assistance of the Censorship Board, who are expected to view the film and determine whether it contains any undesirable scenes."
13 January 1996 Herald

"Police have cleared the makers of feature film Flame of obscenity allegations, and returned rough prints seized last week saying there was no basis for laying a charge of obscenity."
20 January 1996 Herald

"A highlight of the 20th Cape Town International Film Festival from May 31 to June 23, and mainly at the Labia and Cavendish, is the long-awaited African premiere of the ground-breaking Zimbabwean film Flame, directed by Ingrid Sinclair. This movie was the first feature film from Zimbabwe to be invited to this month's Cannes International Festival for the prestigious "Director's Fortnight".
May 17 1996 Top of the Times

"The Zimbabwe feature film Flame has been approved for general release in the country by the Board of Censors with a No under 16 age restriction".
23 May 1996 Financial Gazette

"Flame is undoubtedly a revelation for African film, the continent's women film-makers, and the task of retelling history with passion rather than plaintiveness that is so often the case with South African film and television."
24 April 1997 Mail & Guardian



Flame - Web Reviews and Commentary

21 March 1996. Flame: Director's statement
(Africa Film WebMeeting)


4 April 1996. FLAME editorial from Zimbabwe
(Africa Film WebMeeting)


10 June 1996. Zimbabwe newspaper article on Flame
(Africa Film WebMeeting)


Undated 1996. Flamme, Ingrid Sinclair, 1996
A page produced for La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Cannes, 1996 by La Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (Fonds Sud cinéma series). This page also has a short video clip in two formats:
Real Player
Quicktime


1997. A Film Review by James Berardinelli


Date unknown. California Newsreel review


Date unknown. Flame: Notes for Viewing the Film



Flame - Festivals

Quinzane des Realisateurs, Cannes, May 1996
Cape Town International Film Festival, South Africa, June 1996
Festival du Cinema Africain de Bruxelles, Belgium, June 1996
Southern African Film Festival, Zimbabwe, September 1996
Mill Valley Film Festival, California, USA, October 1996
Film Festival, Mannheim-Heidelberg, Germany, October 1996
Carthage Film Festival, Tunisia, October 1996
Films from the South, Norway, October 1996
M'Net All Africa Film Awards, South Africa, November 1996
London International Film Festival, United Kingdom, November 1996
Amiens International Film Festival, France, November 1996
Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, China, November 1996
The Fourth Contemporary African Diaspora Film Festival, USA, December 1996
The Pan African Film Festival, USA, January 1997
Conference on Gender and Colonialism, South Africa, January 1997
The International Film Festival, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, February 1997
The Annonay Film Festival, France, February 1997
Festival International du Film D'Amour, Belgium, February 1997
FESPACO, Burkina Faso, February 1997
The Milan African Film Festival, March 1997
The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, New York, May 1997
The Afrika Film Festival, Germany, June 1997
The Galway Film Festival, Ireland, July 1997
Media Natura, United Kingdom, July 1997



Flame - Awards

Southern African Film Festival, Harare
OAU Prize - Best Film
Jury Award - Best Actress
Jury Award - Best Director


Journées de Cinématographe de Carthage, Tunis
Special Jury Prize - Best Film


Amiens Film Festival, Amiens, France
Prix du Public - Best Film
Palmares du Jury - Best Actress
OCIC Award - Best Film


M-Net Film Awards, Cape Town
Best Music


The Annonay International Film Festival, France
The Grand Prix - Best Film


The Milan African Film Festival
Premio del Pubblico (The Public Prize)
Concorso Lungometraggi - Migliore Opera Prima (Best First Film)


The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, New York
The Nestor Almendros Prize


The International Women's Film Festival in Turenne (1998)
The Jury Award for Best Film
The Youth Award for Best Feature Film

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I welcome comments from everyone on my book Choppertech.
I am interested especially on hearing from former ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants who also have thier story to tell.