Tanzanian cinema is bad. Tanzanian movies have no discernible plot, no internal logic, no development of the characters. Tanzanian movies leaves you with the question: "Why did I have to spend 1.5 hours watchig that?" after seeing them. A friend of mine is a script writer and wants to make a good Tanzanian movie. We discussed what makes good movies good and agreed that most of them present a conflict or dilemma that the characters have to solve in the course of the movie. It made me think of the Tanzanian dilemmas that I know. All the following stories are true stories or in some cases a combination of more than one true story.
1) A journalist of a government-friendly newspaper discovers evidence of a huge corruption scandal involving the president and 5 of his ministers. He knows that his editors won’t be happy to publish such a story and that he might well lose his job if he goes to another newspaper with the evidence. He also knows that publishing such stories is a risk (refer e.g. to the editors of MwanaHalisi who have been attacked with acid and machetes and had their newspaper banned and offices trashed). He is responsible for 4 children, one of his own and 3 of his late sister’s. She and her husband died of AIDS. He knows from his work as a journalist that many other AIDS orphans aren’t as lucky as to have relatives who can take care of them as their own children,and that they are frequently subjected to sexual abuse, working under slave-like conditions and denied access to education. The money that was stolen by the president and his ministers were donated by a European government development assistance agency to go to the construction of 20 centres with orphanages, schools and health care for AIDS orphans across the country. His wife doesn’t want him to publish the story because she likes their convenient lifestyle and doesn’t want any problems. Can he ignore his conscience? Will he choose truth over calm and convenience?
2) (This is more of an inspirational story than one presenting a dilemma) A young doctor at Muhimbili Hospital decides that the salary, $200 a month, is too low to reflect the actual value of a fully educated doctor. He and his colleagues discuss how they can take action in order to get fairer salaries. It is a sensitive question, because a normal strike by health professionals can be fatal to many patients. In the end, they decide that young doctors, but not nurses or specialists, will go on strike if necessary. They approach all relevant government bodies with their request to discuss their salaries, but are ignored. They try a second time but are ignored. Then they announce the strike to take place the next day and suddenly they’re listened to. They decide to go on strike for one day anyway. The strike is successful and the salaries are raised, but the young doctor is banned from practising as a doctor in Tanzania for 2 years. He starts a business instead and an NGO with international support and international internees dealing with health issues such as domestic violence, HIV/AIDS outreach programmes and so on.
3) Two girls, Bahati and Neema, grow up in the same village and are like sisters. They both go to Mwanza to study. They both find boyfriends. Neema’s boyfriend is quick to tell her that he will take her to his family, he will go to her family to discuss the bride price. She believes him and moves in with him, but he keeps making excuses for not going. Bahati’s boyfriend is very difficult to her and demands that she always cancel all other plans to be with him whenever he wants to see her. She is afraid that he will leave her and does what he says. Eventually, he starts talking about getting married and introduces her to his siblings and start making plans for having her meet his parents. Meanwhile, Neema discovers that she has become pregnant. Her boyfriend is still full of excuses and doesn’t take her to meet his parents. When she gives birth, the baby is very sick and it is discovered that both she and the baby are HIV positive. When she tells her boyfriend, he leaves her with the newborn child. The baby is dying and her only trusted friend in Mwanza is Bahati. When it becomes clear that the baby will die within a few days or at most a week, Bahati’s boyfriend suddenly decides that they should go on a little holiday for 2 weeks. He hasn’t asked Bahati if she wants to go at this time. Bahati knows that Neema is so sad that she considers suicide when the baby has died. But she’s afraid that her boyfriend will leave her if she doesn’t do what he says. Can she let her friend down? Is it even right for her to marry a man who demands that she always give everything up for his sake?
4) A young man has introduced a girl to his mother, and tradition demands that he marry her after introducing her to his parents. It is not culturally acceptable or even heard of that he marries somebody other than the first and only girl he introduces to his parents. But he realises that he doesn’t love her, and he discovers that she’s seeing other guys and even telling her friends all about it, friends whom he’s been introduced to as her boyfriend and has known through the 2 years of the relationship. They’re fighting all the time. However, his parents still expect him to marry her. Now he has to choose between his own happiness and respecting the traditions.
5) A man who’s the oldest brother of his family has been in the UK to study. He’s stayed to work, he’s met an English woman and they’re living together with their small child. They’re not married because his girlfriend doesn’t believe in marriage. He has settled in so well in England that this hasn’t bothered him or struck him as wrong. But then his father dies and as the oldest son, he’s expected to go home and take care of his mother and younger siblings. But can he leave Europe? Can he leave his child and girlfriend? Or can they give up all the things they would have to give up in order to live in Tanzania?
6) A poor young woman is offered a “little house” by a rich married man (i.e. to have a house paid for, and food and clothes and so on, if she agrees to live there and have his children as some sort of more or less secret second wife without a marriage certificate). Should she choose the convenience over a chance for real love? Is she being abused because she’s poor and doesn’t have many other chances of getting that level of material convenience? Or is it possible for a relationship like that to be emotionally fulfilling?
7) A man dies from AIDS. Tradition demands that his widow be married to one of his male r
elatives. Everybody knows that he died from AIDS though nobody speaks of it openly, and everybody suspects that the widow is HIV positive too. She won’t be able to retain any property, custody of their children or any material security if she doesn’t marry into his family. How will they solve this?
8) a Christian woman is married to a Muslim man in a Muslim marriage. She finds out that her husband is cheating on her. As time goes by, she sees how he gets more and more involved with the other woman and in the end, she decides to put an end to it. She calls the other woman to warn her off, but the other woman tells her that she has agreed to become second wife. According to her husbands tradition, this is acceptable. According to her faith, it is not. Can she stay in her marriage? Can she heal the feelings of hurt and betrayal? Can she accept sharing a man with another woman openly?
9) A woman who has lost her relatives in an early age is married to a man whom she discovers to have made the housegirl pregnant. She decides to leave him, but she doesn’t get a divorce because she won’t be able to remarry before he dies anyway. She goes to Dar es Salaam, where she meets another man who’s married. They like each other and she becomes pregnant, but she dies in childbirth. This man’s wife doesn’t know anything about the affair or that her husband has fathered a child with another woman. He doesn’t know how she will take it. The late woman has no other relatives than her husband whom she left with the housegirl. Who will take the body? And who will take the baby?