HARARE – Thinking Films productions is working on a feature film on the late great writer, Dambudzo Marechera.
The project titled Flora and Dambudzo focuses on Marechera and German scholar Flora Veit Wild.
“I am hoping we will shoot in September mostly in Zimbabwe. The project deals with internal obstacles and it is not a biopic. It is a little story about two people,” said Agnieszka Piotrowska. who will be co-producing the film with Stanley Makuwe and Joe Njagu.
Marechera had a turbulent personal life for many years, with his early literary promise thwarted by mental illness and alcoholism.
His first novel, The House of Hunger, was heralded as an exciting new example of postcolonial African writing, and remains his best known work.
“With Dambudzo Marechera’s death,” noted World Literature Today critic Tanure Ojaide, “African literature lost a young star whose meteoric appearance has left an illuminating rail.”
The film is part of the Thinking Films project, which recently produced the Nama-nominated Escape.
Questioned on the timing since Marechera has been dead for 30 years, the producer said the story still needs to be told.
“Dambudzo is very relevant today. He is one of the most important African writers ever and stands for freedom and independence of thought.
“I am equally excited about working with Makuwe which will be a project which will take place first with Eddie Sandifolo and Charmaine Mujeri.
“The draft script has been written by me and Ery Nzaramba and right now a well-known Zimbabwean writer is doing a rewrite but it is still under wraps,” Piotrowska said.
The House of Hunger author lived an interesting and controversial life.
In 1972, Marechera won a scholarship to the University of Rhodesia, but he was expelled the following year for taking part in campus protests against the Rhodesian government.
He was later awarded a scholarship to study at the New College at Oxford University in the United States of America (USA) in 1974. He was then expelled after he had attempted to set the college on fire.
After his expulsion from Oxford, Marechera hitchhiked to London, and claimed to have lived in a riverside tent there while he wrote The House of Hunger.
Marechera had several awards under his belt, Alfred Beit Scholarship, University of Rhodesia; scholarship to Oxford; co-winner, Guardian Fiction Prize, for The House of Hunger, 1979; two grants from the Arts Council of Great Britain; special commendation from Noma Award committee, for The Black Insider, 1991.
“Flora and Dambudzo focuses on the relationship between Flora and Dambudzo, and the internal obstacles which post-colonial legacy places on personal relationships.
“It also interrogates issues of morality and ethics. We did make two shorts about this which screened out of competition at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) in 2016.
“The story is controversial because it’s a story of Flora’s love too for him despite Dambudzo treating her badly and even very badly at times. She was married at the time too so there is this dimension to the story. Ethics, morality, passion and big questions, like Escape.”
The filmmakers are not just doing it on their own; they have engaged the services of Veit Wild for a better story.
“I am working with Flora on the project and female Zimbabwean artists too.”
Veit Wild is a professor in Germany. She has written about her whirlwind relationship with Marechera.
One of the several works include Dambudzo Marechera: A Source Book on His Life and Work, written in 1992.
“…My personal involvement with Dambudzo Marechera has affected my professional life in a way I would never have expected.
“The many ironic twists, the tricks that Dambudzo played on me even posthumously…,” she wrote on Memory Chirere’s blog.