Damyna the Musical movie, produced in Zambia
Damyna the Musical: Director's Statement
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We left our farm for a house in Lusaka. Our Zambian assistant, his wife and son, and his furniture, came with us. On the day of departure, an unexpected five-year-old girl appeared, who ‘looked after’ our assistant’s son.
Suddenly, those children selling tomatoes when others were at school were explained: an inherited orphan child pays and does not go to school. Here is Damyna, and she is not at school. Later, the girl is pretty and her husband must pay lobola [bride price]. There are doubts about her father and her step brother. She marries. The adoptive mother wants lobola; the young woman wants love. And then there is the witch doctor...
Josephine Chadiza, who plays Damyna, relaxes on set during principal photography at the Roan and Sable Restaurant. Josephine was awarded a Dikalo (2017) for best actress by Festival International du Film PanAfricain de Cannes
The story became my opera Damyna Damyna, performed in the Lusaka Playhouse in April 2014, and then I wrote the screenplay. Damyna hopes to marry her brother Por, except she must keep up the pretence of being his sister. Only she and Ms Bwalya, her adoptive mother, know the truth. Two young consultants visit the family’s village to improve their farm’s productivity. They unwittingly become the subject of games by an incompetent witch doctor. Ms Bwalya’s husband claims to have fathered both Por and Damyna, which confounds the witch doctor and everyone else, but Damyna realises her dreams could yet come true.
Where women have no choice or voice, Damyna the Musical reflects on philandering men who neglect and deny their children, resulting in unschooled orphans and second class citizens, often without identity. Secondary themes are belief in witch doctors, mixed race relationships, human ‘ownership’, adoption issues and responsibilities, and ill-advised donor activity. The film explores the inherent dualities of wealth and poverty, rural and urban spaces, multiculturalism and the educated and uneducated, along with concepts of racism, feminism, inequality, sexism and colonialism.
Damyna and Por Phiri get married in the final scene in the local church, and they are married in real life too.
The acting is natural, direct, simple and true while placement accommodates the visual and aural design. The primordial images of the village introduce rural living and environment. The huts, hoes, animals, chickens, local dress and behaviour are metaphors for country living, while the café, town dress and behaviour are metaphors of urban life. Mr and Mrs Farmer and their urban counterparts Mr and Mrs Townie characterise farm and town stereotypes, while the witch doctor represents capriciousness, fate and faddish donor interventions. Backgrounds, moods, pace, costumes and colours are consistent with the duality of rural and urban life.
Tom Chiponge plays the witchdoctor upto mischief in the cafe scene.
Camera movements are limited by the agricultural tone of the film. Reflectors with daylight and limited secondary light for interiors give natural colouring that is consistent with the costumes and characters. The slower country pace is conveyed by longer takes and simple transitions. The singing is mostly recorded to camera while the witch doctor is defined by his visual effects and magical motifs. The music from the opera retains its structure of contrast, mood, key and juxtaposition.
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