Encounters International Documentary Festival
Comrada Presidente – A Portrait of President Samora Machel
Saturday 15 June, Johannesburg
Comrade President was premiered in Africa at last week’s Encounters International Documentary Festival, supported by Connect ZA (British Council South Africa). Myself and photographer Khabazela Mkhize had the privilege of attending the screening in Johannesburg. We had a chat with the documentary’s director, Mosco Kamwendo.
This documentary, about the late president of Mozambique President Samora Machel, had some of the viewer’s weeping. It was not only a touching story of his life, but also an informative artwork about how the president and other great African leaders played their roles in bringing about the continent’s independence and democracy.
President Samora Machel played a role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. What do you think is the one thing young South Africans should remember about him?
He is a president. I think he forever deserves that title. I think the time that he served governing is to be forever remembered. I think young people should look back and know why you are who you are today because it is not by choice, but by circumstance. Given the choice, would you be doing something else? Search for answers as to why the world is the way it is. He believed that leadership is sacrifice and leaders should be the last to benefit from it. This is something very different from what leadership is today.
When you started filmmaking in the late 80’s, racism and, other oppressions that came with it, were at their peak. What can you say were the greatest challenges you had to overcome?
Ok, I didn’t start as a black filmmaker. Most films that were showing then, were anti-apartheid. When Americans came to make films, they came with their scriptwriters, directors and the whole set. We lacked mentorship. We didn’t know how to write film or how to direct a film. Those were the initial problems we experienced.
You are originally from Zimbabwe. Tell us a bit more about your background and upbringing?
I was raised in Rhodesia. My name is originally Moscow, as my dad was rebelling against Colonialism, but he just didn’t include the ‘w’. Later my uncle had a child and he named his daughter Soviet. I became the first black child in my neighbourhood to attend a multi-racial school. I had a very happy childhood.
What do you think is the most interesting thing we didn’t know about President Machel that your documentary covers?
The interesting thing is that he got involved with four women in his life, and had kids with all of them.