A BAG of hard-knuckle action with heart tearing twists synonymous with Hollywood action movies is an apt phrase to describe the Zimbabwean movie Chinhoyi 7 that is now at an advanced stage of production.The movie that tells the true story of the famous but historical Chinhoyi Battle where seven freedom fighters matched the well-resourced Rhodesian army and fought fiercely until they ran out of ammunition in a battle that proved to be the matchstick that lit the bonfire of the Second Chimurenga resembles in more ways than one the movie done by Americans on the war in Vietnam.
More interesting is the cast that features seasoned and new entrants in the film industry with gospel songbird Fungisai Zvakavapano- Mashavave getting her debut film role.
The movie is directed by Moses Matanda who is no novice in the film industry and is set to premier sometime in February next year.
The movie does not only tell the story in a dramatic but touching way but extends to the human senses as well where the smell of gunpowder, blood and fresh human flesh could emotionally be attached leaving it to fill in the action movie gap in the country’s film industry.
The film is a chronicle of the Battle of Chinhoyi that ignited the Second Chimurenga in 1966.
On 28 April of that year, seven freedom fighters that had entered the country from Zambia were intercepted by Rhodesian Forces in Chinhoyi and the battle exploded. At the site that is now the Mashonaland West Provincial Heroes Acre, the freedom fighters namely David Guzuzu, Arthur Maramba, Christopher Chatambudza, Simon Chingozha Nyandoro, Godfrey Manyerenyere, Godwin Dube and Chubby Savanhu fired the first shots of the Second Chimurenga.
The seven were attacked by an army with jet bombers and helicopter gunships but they held the forces for the whole day until they ran out of ammunition and were all killed. This battle bore the liberation struggle that brought Zimbabwe’s independence. This historic episode inspired Matanda to desire to document its importance and relevance — it seeks to place honour and respect where it is due.
The film also features local poet Albert Nyathi as Dr Joshua Nkomo, Julian Shaw from Britain and Cynthia Stone both from Canada. Edmore Sandiforo, popularly known as Chabvonga in the television drama series, Tiriparwendo, also features in the film together with local actress Charlene Mangweni, who also presented 37 Degrees on ZBC TV.
Director, Matanda, praised Fungisayi for her humility and character.
“She will definitely be one of Zimbabwe’s best actors I must say. She is so humble and her being a star already does not get into her head. As a first time actor, we had to teach her how to develop inner feelings so that she is able to act it all out — and she is very impressive,” he said.
The songbird plays Sarudzai, a patriotic housemaid working at a Rhodesian army general’s house.
Matanda is a professional filmmaker who studied film arts production at Toronto Media and Film College. He specialised in directing, cinematography, film history and editing. Matanda also graduated from Seneca York University where he studied acting for camera, voice and script writing. The Honde Valley born also studied acting at KD Studios in Dallas.
With such a man for a director, Fungisayi seems to have had a light-bulb moment in her career as she eyes greater heights, expanding her artistic dimensions.
“Chinhoyi 7 is a great film and I am excited to be working with a committed and hardworking director like Moses. The thing is, I have always known I was an actress but I needed someone professional to shape that actress out and I think Matanda showed me the way. As a humanitarian and Christian, I think currently I have no better way of speaking against racism than being part of this film as both an actress and a songwriter too,” she said.
Fungisai also revealed that she took her artistry wholesomely and was poised to take any opportunities presented to her.
“All of this really depends on God but I am ready to take all opportunities that come my way,” she said.
Added Fungisai: “I really had to learn how to be someone else on set for this film. Of course I was used to playing roles in some of my music videos but here it has been different – I have to be that very person not just makeshift act to be like them – and it really is such an experience, I must say, and I loved every bit of it.”
In her encouragement to other artistes, Fungisai said they should be open to challenges and pursue their artistry holistically.
“If one can write a song, I am sure they can create many other things because they are in essence an artiste. So, my encouragement to them is they should try to venture into other forms of art as it were. Chinhoyi 7 has been a great opportunity for me in this regard, and I am grateful,” she said.