LILIAN AZIZI’S FILMMAKING DEBUT
The American film and television industry supports close to 2.6 million jobs, with people working in departments of special effects to technicians to make up artists to writers to set builders to ticket takers and more, paying out over $181 billion in wages annually and comprises more than 93,000 businesses (Motion Pictures 2020). Such staggering figures should serve as a great incentive for Malawi and Africa as a whole to seriously invest in and support their creative industries for the betterment of job creation and economic growth.
“When we appreciate our own content as Africans, even in least developed industries, we can uplift our industries to international levels in the same way we are doing with music,” Lilian says. Support from viewers through purchases, social media posting and collaborations amongst creatives can make a difference in transforming the creative landscape across Malawi and Africa.
Lilian Azizi is a Gambia-based young Malawian female entrepreneur who has recently produced a film titled “Can’t Have It All” which premiered in the capital city of Lilongwe at Sunbird Capital Hotel on the 27th of March and in Blantyre on the 28th of March. Based on the lives of four women, Can’t Have it All tells the story of an ambitious career woman who is married with two kids whose life comes apart as she realizes not everything is as “perfect” as it seems. You would have to watch the movie yourself to get the full scoop on how the story unfolds.
Lilian’s journey to producing her first film involved learning as much as she can about movie production without ever setting foot in film school. The groundwork for the movie was done in 2019, from script writing to training actors to finding locations to film at and the shooting of the scenes. The first stop for the movie premiere was in Gambia on the 30th of November last year, followed recently by two stops in Malawi’s top cities in March and the final destination for the premiere is set for the 17th of April in Abuja, Nigeria.
Aside from her passion for filmmaking and making her mark in the African film industry, Lilian has been running a car rental company in Gambia, West Africa for the past eight years whilst also specializing in car sales of Toyota and Suzuki vehicles. Can’t Have It All signals her entry into the creative industry with a focus to contribute to the film industry in Malawi and West African countries. While her base will be in Abuja, she will be travelling back and forth to Malawi where she is going to be working on shooting a new film and series.
“I hope my fellow Malawians will support this movie and the next project which will be shot here in Malawi. I am looking to have people on board in terms of makeup, fashion and music for the soundtracks of the project because all these professions contribute to the overall outcome,” Lilian says. She believes in collaborating with artists from various industries along with partnering up with sponsors who can help with covering costs for the logistics to shoot at various locations.
“Our film industry is weak at the moment so much that you can’t rely on sponsors as the majority of industry experts and organizations tend to undermine the arts as being just hobbies you cannot make a living out of,” Lilian says. However, with platforms such as Netflix on the rise and taking on more and more content from various continents as time progresses, there is hope for Malawian film creatives looking for supportive audiences and international recognition. She believes that the audience, which is the public, are the ones to push the film industry to new heights through buying premiere tickets or physical copies (DVDs) of the movies especially in Malawi where streaming movies and music is not easily accessible to the majority of the population. Looking at Nigeria’s billion dollar film industry, Malawi can learn a lot from how they support their fashion, arts music and film sectors and how those contribute to the economy of the country as well as job creation.
“Being a woman means having to work extra hard for everything in life and so seeing more women in the industry would be great for healthy competition,” says Lilian. She loves seeing female producers and directors because she knows the final work will always have that extra finishing touch from working their heart out in a male dominated industry with different kinds of challenges. Not to mention how helpful the coaching and support from fellow women producers and directors can be on the journey to becoming one of Africa’s sought after film producers.
“We need more African women to be active across all sectors in society if we are going to see real changes when it comes to gender equality and the growth of industries,” Lilian adds. Being a female filmmaker in a male dominated industry is unique, invigorating and challenging at the same time as you have to lead a team of men who might have a problem with being given orders by a woman. In Lilian’s case, her background of working in the automobile industry prepared her for such an environment as she is used to being the odd woman out in a male dominated industry.
“To women looking to venture into new territories or male dominated industries, I say: Challenges will always come, they provide you with a chance to learn and to stay focused on working towards the bigger picture of the future – its part of life,” Lilian says. With this focused mindset, Lilian knows she can handle anything that comes her way and she encourages other women to face life head on and to work hard for their dreams even if they are called names such as being “bossy” or “demanding”.