Film making in Tanzania

Guest researcher Vicensia Shule will spend her time at NAI studying the life and work of Tanzanian film actor-director and producer Steven Kanumba. He was an extremely popular and productive director, despite being only 28 at the time of his death in 2012.

He began his career by acting in dramas for television but soon started his own production company, where he did almost everything himself. He came up with the ideas, wrote the scripts, then produced and directed the films and often even played the lead character. Between 2005 and 2012, he produced more than 40 films.

On the surface, the movies are simple stories about relationships and sex. Perhaps that is why the films and Steven Kanumba achieved enormous popularity.

– If one looks more closely, the films portray masculinity in Tanzania and its problems. He also gave voice to the poor at the lowest levels of society. It was they who primarily bought his DVDs. However, all the new Mercedes Benzes and luxury villas in his movies give evidence of a connection to top levels as well, Vicensia Shule says.

Along with being a researcher and teaching film and theatre at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Vicensia Shule also runs her own film production company. Most of the contracts she gets are from national or international NGOs or state institutions for making films with a social message, for example, within the framework of various campaigns.
– Those films are my breadwinners, although  not always very entertaining to produce. But they give me an income and a chance to invest in other less lucrative projects. At least once a year, l try to produce something l really want to do, even if l don’t get funded for it, and I take my chances on the commercial market, she remarks.

Just like the subject of her research, Steven Kanumba, Vicensia Shule performs a variety of roles in other production companies. In fact, she has also done a lot of acting and is the main character in EATV’s The Team Tanzania.
– l love being a professional actor, but unfortunately there is no future in it. Very few actors in Tanzania can make a living by acting, says Vicensia Shule.

She doesn’t have much confidence on the role of the Tanzanian television industry in supporting the Tanzanian film industry. For instance, most radio and television companies prefer to hire unskilled labour in order to pay lower wages. Most radio and TV presenters who deal with film programs prefer film makers to bribe them so that they can positively discuss their films or invite them to the studio. Even worse, film makers normally have to pay television companies to broadcast a film – totally the opposite of how it should be. According to Shule, this is because of all the illegal broadcasting of counterfeit films, even on national networks. Yet another dysfunctional aspect is distribution. The contracts distributors offer film producers are often exploitative.

– That’s why l started my own distribution company as well. With the established distributors l would have to give up all future royalties, Vicensia Shule notes.

You can watch some of Vicensia Shule’s productions and acting skills at:
Preview of Chungu,

Population Service International (PSI,

The Team Tanzania preview and complete episode 1 (of totat 13)

Twaweza TV PSA

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