Gendering Cruelty: An Investigation Of The Depiction Of The ‘Cruel Male’ In Godwin Mawuru’s Neria And Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Everyone’s Child.

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By Phoebe Sakarombe



The origins of film in Zimbabwe are colonial. But after independence in 1980 there were efforts to decolonise local film. Most films made in Zimbabwe since independence, however, quickly fell under the influence of NGO finance. This dissertation investigates a specific form of character ‘typage’ found within two selected Zimbabwean films that were made with the help of NGO finance. It is my contention that in Neria and Everyone’s Child there is to be observed a type of male character who is represented as if he were naturally cruel and exploitative, and as if cruelty was an in-born male trait. In other words, cruelty and exploitiveness are given a male gender. Or, at least, cruelty and exploitativeness are limited to certain males. The cruel male type does not change; moreover, he is unable to change, unlike the women or the ‘compassionate male’ types. Considering the complexity of social relations in Zimbabwe, this portrayal is both limiting and limited. This dissertation argues that the depiction of certain men in Neria and Everyone’s Child is actually meant to collectively diminish and tarnish, as much as possible, African gender and social structures in favour of a vision of social change sponsored by the Media for Development International (MFDI). This dissertation will critique the representation of the male character in Neria and Everyone’s Child. It will also compare and contrast the cruel, ‘backward’ male with the supposedly compassionate, ‘modern’ male. It will be shown that the pattern of characterising certain males as cruel-by-nature in these movies raises questions about the ideology of these films. In sum, this dissertation is therefore a study of the gender politics of Neria and Everyone’s Child, with the focus on the depiction of males or male traits. It is my contention that the depiction of males in these two films has a bearing on the understanding and perception of being male in Zimbabwean society, on gender relations and perceptions in general and on the types of ideological frames we can expect from Zimbabwean films.

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