Flame Production Photos

FLAME (1996) Fiction 90 minutes, Directed by Ingrid Sinclair. Producers: Simon Bright, Joel Phiri, Bridget Pickering, Jaques Bidou. Distribution: Theatrical release: South Africa, Zimbabwe, USA, France, Germany. USA distributor California Newsreel.

Flame was the first film about the liberation of Zimbabwe, telling the story of two girls, close friends, whose involvement in the liberation war lead to very different outcomes. Florence, impulsive and brave, and Nyasha, scholarly and cautious, are scarcely more than children when they run away from their village to join the liberation forces based in Mozambique.

The film has been described as “perhaps the most controversial film ever made in Africa – certainly the only one to be seized by the police during editing on the grounds it was both subversive and pornographic.” (Moor,C. 1997) Originally conceived as a documentary, Flame became a fiction film because none of the seven women on whose experience the story was based dared mention the sexual abuse they had suffered on camera. ‘Ingrid Sinclair’s tribute to women fighters in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle aroused the ire of male veterans because it revealed officers sometimes used female recruits as ‘comfort women’. 

Towards the end of editing, male veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war accused Flame of subversion and pornography. The leader of the war veterans appeared on TV and in the press demanding that the producers be imprisoned and threatening to burn down any cinema showing the film.( Zimmedia archive. Flame 1996) Police seized the negative, but could not find evidence of pornography and so the negatives were returned.‘The film’s real crime may have been that it exposed not just past abuses but continuing divisions within Zimbabwean society. Many of the women who fought in the war were left behind in the post-revolutionary period; for them the revolution was still not completed’.(Moor,C. 1997)

Ingrid  Sinclair’s ambitious first feature film built upon and extended many of the transnational elements of previous Zimmedia films. It was a three way co-production with Onland Productions Namibia, JBA productions France and Zimmedia. The DOP was from Mozambique, the sound recordist and sound designer from Tunisia and the editor from France, with two Zimbabwean producers along with the actors and the bulk of the production crew.