An influential newspaper column published on Saturday notes the clip trending on social media in which an NTV journalist makes an observation that in 2018 Malawi doesn’t have a single movie theatre where people could join the ‘Wakanda forever’ craze and watch the movie Black Panther on big screen and join.
Back in the days, Malawi used to have movie theatres; Apollo Cinema in Blantyre, Five Star Drive-in Cinema at Moneymen and Drive-in Cinema in Lilongwe where lovers of the big screen used to spend their weekends with their families and loved ones.
After a long break, Cine City Cinema was opened in Blantyre, but it did not last long as it closed down following technological challenges. The owners needed US$ 300 000 to upgrade from analogue to digital.
However, the column Backbencher published in Weekend Nation, highlited that in Malawiset of priorities, there could be a litany of goods and services that are more urgent than a cinema hall—a cancer hospital, girls’ hostels, markets for our legumes, irrigation farming, good roads, more competitive transport mode to the ports, etc.
Still, Backbencher wrote, the lack of cinema is a pointer to “a step in retrogression”.
“We are deprived in the 21st Century of the small luxury we used to take for granted way back in the 20th Century,” wrote the columnist.
The columnist said during his childhood days in Zomba in the ‘70s, movie lovers could trek to Luangwa [Catholic Parish Hall] or Police to watch Charlie Chaplin or cowboy movies.
“Don’t say the advent of TV has rendered the big screen superfluous. Anywhere else in the Sadc region the TV and the big screen co-exist and are both growing. In Malawi, the death of cinema serves as proof that the country’s middle class is too poor to pay for such luxury,” reads the column.
Malawi has a rich cinema culture, but according to the columnist, the numbers of those who can afford spending on movies is too small to sustain even a single movie theatre.
“Surprised? That’s how de-humanising abject poverty can be. We are rated the world’s poorest country by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita—an unenviable status we have assumed largely due to mediocre leadership and rampant corruption of the multi-party political dispensation,” reads the column.
“Our hand-to-mouth lifestyle has led to the shrinking of the domestic market particularly for services. People can’t afford to eat out. People can’t afford to watch movies at the cinema. People can’t afford new designer clothes. People can’t afford visiting holiday resorts.
“After government squeezes 30 to 35 percent taxes from their miserable salaries the real value of which diminishes whenever the kwacha depreciates, the little they are left with is spent on necessities—food, water, electricity, housing, clothes, medication and education for their children,” it reads.
In the column, Backbecher pointed out that Malawi is losing its capacity to generate wealth and create jobs, but “politics appears to have the enhanced libido to sire more money and power, especially for the governing party.”
But to movie theatrers, some commentators arguethat Malawians perceive going to the cinema as a past-time of the elite.
People feel at home when they watch movies that resonate with their social set up.
They argue that unless Malawians start producing more movies, the cinema industry will stagnate.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :