Botswana’s Emerging Filmmakers Belie COVID-19 Strictures
While other industries may still be slowly reopening as the reality of living with the COVID-19 pandemic sinks in, Botswana’s film sector has been a hive of activity to create world-class film and TV content without breaking post-lockdown regulations.
Students of MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy for Southern Africa (MTF) have returned from the school’s headquarters in Lusaka and are working hard, from home, to continue their studies ahead of their graduation later this year.
Lorato Orapeleng and Masego Mohwasa were the two creatives chosen to represent Botswana this year at the MTF Academy, which is a MultiChoice initiative that aims to ignite Africa’s creative industries and thus transform the continent’s film sector where skilled and experienced professionals are scarce. The MTF Academy says it wants to be a part of the solution by proactively growing this skills base in various southern African countries, including Botswana, while uniting the African film sector into one formalised, professional industry.
To do this, students from across the region participate in a year-long paid-for programme that provides them with invaluable skills and hands-on industry experience. While Covid-19 lockdowns in southern Africa may have restricted students’ personal interactions, they did done nothing to damper their spirits, which is what Lorato and Masego are proving.
The sky is the limit for Lorato One could say Lorato was born for TV. Since the age of five, she has dreamt of being on the screen, regularly presenting TV inserts for friends and family. A failed audition for Mantlwaneng had her second-guessing her passion, and she pursued a course in accounting and business principles at the Botswana Accountancy College. “But I knew this wasn’t for me,” she says, brimming with confidence. “It wasn’t what I wanted, so I dropped out.”
According to Lorato, time spent with youth NGO, SkyGirls, which encourages young girls to embrace themselves and their inherent talents, reinforced her passion for TV. After that she went to South Africa to complete a short course in TV production. When AFDA, the South African film and TV school, opened courses in Botswana, Lorato instantly enrolled for a Degree in Motion Picture Media, graduating in 2019.
During this time, she applied to the academy but was unsuccessful. However, her application to the academy was accepted last year. “My MTF experience so far has been amazing,” she says. “It has really expanded my thinking and shown me the wealth of opportunities available in film and TV both in Botswana and beyond our borders. As soon as I graduate, I want to start working on local content for DStv.”
Aside from building her skills and opening doors to her future career, the MTF Academy has given Lorato something even more important – confidence in herself and the belief that she has what it takes to follow her dreams.“Before this experience, I was prepared to settle for a mediocre life,” she explains. “I thought I would have to work for my mom and my TV dreams would have to work for my mom and my TV dreams would never be realised. But my time at MTF has taught me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Changing the film narrative in Botswana
Interestingly, Masego’s journey followed a similar trajectory to that of Lorato. She also discontinued a business administration course in favour of pursuing her film and TV dreams. And because of the absence of relevant courses in Botswana, she too looked to South Africa for a way to her future career. “Nothing scares me more than the thought of working in an office,” Masego says.
“As a child, I loved stories, books and movies but I never thought film could actually be a viable career option. As soon as I discovered AFDA and the course it was offering in Johannesburg, I applied and was accepted. When the school opened a branch in Botswana, I transferred my admission and embarked on a four-year Degree in Motion Picture Media, majoring in scriptwriting and directing, which I completed last year.”
Destiny had a hand in Masego attending the MTF Academy as well. She saw a TV advert on the very last day before the deadline for applications and took a chance and applied. “I wasn’t sure of the value it would add to my life as an existing film graduate, but I was wrong,” she explains. “My time at the academy in Zambia showed me that African creative industries can flourish if the narrative is changed from wanting to make money to wanting to tell authentic stories.” More than this, her MTF experience has reaffirmed her own natural affinity for storytelling, built her self-confidence and empowered her to fight for what she believes in. “I used to believe the benchmark for making it in film was moving to the UK and finding work there,” Masego reflects. “Now I see I can follow my dreams right here in Botswana. The key is working with people who are just as passionate as you are. The MTF Academy has shown me that.”