M'dala from Zambia
BY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER, PHOENIX, USA — In Zambia, "M'dala" translates as "Big Man." In the original draft of the script, several street kids called the main character, Chiku, "big man, big man" as they begged for money. Jabbes explained that is was a phrase in Zambia to connote respect. I've taken to calling Jabbes "M'dala" lately.
It's not that I'm trying to turn him into an egomanical director (always a catastrophe if your director gets too big for his britches). It's a title that captures the change I have seen in him the last several months.
Jabbes and I began working on this film together in January. In the beginning, it was just the two of us pushing, pushing, pushing to get this film made. He told me the fictional story of Chiku and the true stories of Zambian culture and custom. The more I heard, the more I was excited to get a Zambian story onto the screen. In those conversations, he shared his dreams for his country. He had a powerful desire to provide more education for filmmakers. He had hope for greater economic freedom and opportunity for all Zambians.
One of the things I admired most was his honesty about the challenges his country faced. He didn't paint a rosy picture of Zambia as some sort of "Eden in Africa" nor did he paint his country black like it was "Hell on Earth". He talked openly about AIDs, poverty, unemployment, corruption and refugees. Like the U.S., Zambia has challenges. He also talked about family bonds, communal gatherings and so much dancing. (Listening to Jabbes, I swear Zambians must be dancing all of the time!) Also, like the U.S., Zambia had wonderful gifts to share with the world.
The more we talked, the more I could see his profound commitment to his nation. I admired and respected that. I became more committed to providing what I could to make the film a success AND to supporting the other economic and educational goals. Though he tries to play humble, I can tell you that Jabbes is becoming quite the M'dala these days. For BAD T!MING to be successful, Jabbes had to become something "bigger" than he had known himself to be in the past. He had to be willing to grow and take on new responsibility.
I see the same thing happening with the MCC student crew. Whether they're going to Zambia or supporting the effort from the U.S., they are having to EXPAND and grow beyond who they have known themselves to be in the past. We (the students, faculty and I) are helping with the FIRST feature film in Zambia. Jabbes is a first-time director. Many of the actors will be first-time actors. For much of the crew, this is their first film. Today I was thinking that all innovators, inventors, pioneers and explorers had to take the risk to do something they had never done in order to accomplish something revolutionary. Our modest, merry little band of students and faculty may qualify for the title of M'dala, too.