n Latin American Report - From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe : exploring the historical dimensions of film censorship laws

Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-6060



This article examines the history of film censorship laws from the era of colonialism up to post-independence Zimbabwe. It is argued that while the Rhodesian censorship laws that infiltrated film images were enacted to stifle black nationalist revolution and advance white supremacist theories that bordered on racism, the newly elected government similarly enacted some draconian statutes in order to stifle dissenting voices in post-independence Zimbabwe. In both cases, vague and ambiguous legal terminology was/is deliberately used in an arbitrary way to ban, restrict and control film images from reaching the public domain. Apart from restricting film images, state power in Rhodesia was exercised by forcing 'dissenting' filmmakers into exile or instilling fear in them so that they ended up imposing 'self-censorship' on their works of art in order to survive. Similar tactics are also deployed by the Zimbabwean government to muffle the voice of filmmakers. This stifles filmmakers' creative imagination by forcing them to concentrate on uncritical issues. In this article, the author will argue that despite a history of suppression, over the years filmmakers have learnt to use different methods of avoiding state censorship by using satirical language, metaphors and complex visual images resulting from technological manipulation. The aim behind using such techniques is to create democratic 'spaces' and promote freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, which was previously denied to black people by the Rhodesian government.

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