ZIMFLIX FOCUS: ‘River’ Web Series Is Redefining Television In A New Age


As Zimbabwe slowly trudges into the internet age, the consumption of tv content has evolved from television screens in the sitting room to right in your pocket-on your phone. 

Like every online community worldwide, content creators have emerged to entertain, educate, or even polarize an ever-growing online audience. 

Statistics from the Postal and Telecommunications estimate the total number of internet users in Zimbabwe at 10 million as at the beginning of 2023. 

That’s a sizable audience, isn’t it?

Over the past five years, a couple of content creators have gained notoriety and the popularity that it comes with; and managed to erk out a living mostly by scoring brand deals due to their undeniable influence. 

Take Mai Titi and Shadaya, for example.

For her all her foul-ladden live videos and ribcracking skits, Mai Titi had gained popularity and the trust of fans and brands, before an acrimonious fall from grace — a stint in prison over fraud. 

She has since bounced back, even promising a movie aptly titled Jailbird. She has still managed to retain her over 1 million followers on Facebook.

Meanwhile, ‘the ayatollah of toxic masculinity’ Tawona Shadaya dishes out his controversial advice to 450k followers on Twitter (no one calls it X) whilst cashing in from the outrage-endorsements plus blue check.

So, where does the classic filmmaker fit into the picture? 

The classic filmmaker’s role in shaping perspectives and telling authentic stories can never be forgotten or disregarded. 

Substance over notoriety is a much-needed direction for content consumption in a nation in serious need of a conscious awakening.  

Well, that’s why ZimFlix Focus is there, to shine a light on our esteemed Zimbabwean filmmakers. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Cast of River at the premiere

Collin Nyamuyaruka – Navigating Knowledge, Experience and Passion in ZimFlix

We caught up with producer-screenwriter Collin Nyamuyaruka on the sidelines of the second CBD Market at First Floor Gallery - a booming weekly fashion and urban culture meetup of creatives. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Producer-screenwriter Collin Nyamuyaruka 

He might have been out of his depth amongst the fashionistas, but the 30 year old filmmaker was a star nonetheless. 

With almost a decade’s experience in filmmaking, Collin Nyamuyaruka can be considered a veteran of Zimbabwe’s heavily talented, surely depressed film industry. 

Nyamuyaruka started out in 2015, as an intern at Mirage Multimedia, as part of his studies for a Bachelors in Film and Theatre Arts from the Midlands State University. 

He was immediately thrown into the deep end, starting off by working on big productions like ZBC reality tv competition Starbrite

As an intern, Nyamuruka was exposed to all facets of filmmaking on set – sound, lighting, camerawork, editing. 

It was, however, screenwriting that caught the young Nyamuyaruka’s eye, and luckily his superiors at Mirage noticed this. He slowly specialised into screenwriting, although he was still involved in other aspects of production. 

Whilst still on attachment, Nyamuruka got the honour of working with the legendary Jesesi Mungoshi on Makunun’unu Maodzamoyo, a Culture Fund production starring musical maven Jah Prayzah and actress Nothando Nobengula. 

Still in 2015, and as part of Mirage’s work with The Culture Fund, Nyamuyaruka also got the chance to add onto his experience on a film titled Mwana waMwari.

In 2016, the screenwriter bought his first camera, the same year he also managed to work on two outstanding productions - Muzita Rababa and Muchaneta.

Nyamuyaruka also added music videos to his portfolio, working with superstars Nutty O Hello and Jah Prayzah. 

Nyamuyaruka graduated from the Midlands State University in 2017, with some meagre equipment that allowed him to collaborate with other creatives on a couple of television and film projects. 

Most notable was his contribution to a ZBC show called Entertainment Africa, where he worked closely with Marc Mandisoul. 

Nyamuruka also started venturing into telling his own stories, starting off with a Facebook web series called Issues of Life, which featured Brighton Munaku and Patricia Putsai. 

In 2019, Nyamuyaruka released his debut feature film titled Jeko, a gripping drama featuring frequent collaborators Mathius Kureva and Chidochashe Tenga.

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Poster for Nyamuyaruka's debut film, Jeko

Nyamuyaruka could not fully bask in the glory of his first full length piece of work as he left for South Africa barely a week after premiering Jeko

Fate is always the best screenwriter. 

It is in South Africa that Nyamuyaruka furthered his knowledge and skill in screenwriting; acquiring a Masters in Motion Picture (Majoring in Screenwriting) at AFDA in Cape Town.  

Whilst in South Africa, Nyamuyaruka managed to keep a balance between work and learning — delivering a couple of productions; most notably a film called Two Face

‘River’ Web Series: A good shot 

As the preceding conversation revealed, over the years, Collin Nyamuyaruka has done everything with everyone, everywhere. 

But as the ensuing conversation will reveal, the problem is not with the filmmakers, the issue is with the platforms. 

Taking a leaf from his Issues of Life days, Nyamuyaruka wrote a web series called River, which premiered on 15 December 2023 at Batanai Gardens. 

Chidochangu Jo-annah Tenga, River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
From left: 
Chidochangu Jo-annah Tenga, Talent Dombodzvuku, Mathias Kureva, and Collin Nyamuyaruka

A Zimflix event during the madness that is keDezember? Bad timing, as Nyamuyaruka reminisces;  

“Funny enough, we sold more tickets than the people who attended!”

Nevertheless, that’s the good thing about a web series – it’s the online numbers that matter. 

The premiere happened in 2023, but River had been almost four years in the making. 

It started off as an attempt at a full feature film, until the benefactor of the production decided to convert it into a series. 

Nyamuyaruka was then brought into the production as a screenwriter, tasked with reworking the script. 

Unfortunately, in 2021, the benefactor dropped out for unclear reasons, leaving the entire cast and crew without funding to bring their dream alive. 

Fate is always the best screenwriter. 

An opportunity to resurrect the production presented itself late during that year. Nyamuyaruka was approached by a local tv station at a film expo, which was looking for pilots from filmmakers. 

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Nyamuyaruka decided to submit the pilot for River, an idea he was given by Brackshot Ndate, the producer for the original soundtrack for River when it was still a movie. 

When he submitted the pilot for River in early 2022, Nyamuruka was delighted when the show was immediately greenlit by the tv station, but was even more dismayed when the executives halved the budget at the contract signing day. 

Again, fate is always the best screenwriter. 

Nyamuyaruka and team decided to ditch the establishment and go at it alone. 

Shooting was done between October 2022 and July 2023, December 2023 came with a glitzy premier; and on 28 January 2024, River became available on Facebook and Youtube. 

River is a coming of age family melodrama that follows main character River, played by Talent Dombodzvuku, as she struggles to come to terms with her parents’ divorce, while also harbouring bitterness towards her step mother Angela, played by Chidochangu Jo-annah Tenga. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Lead actress Talent Dombodzvuku, who plays River

The drama series also features Mathius Kureva as James (River's father).

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Chidochangu Jo-annah Tenga, who plays River's stepmother, Angela

Sharon Mhindo (as Mandisa), and Elsy ‘Chyna’ Chigwedere (as Monika) play River's schoolmates. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Mathius Kureva, who plays River's father James

The first season of River will feature eight episodes, thirty minutes each. It was shot mumblecore style, and Nyamuyaruka was employing a classical realist narrative for the script. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Collin Nyamuyaruka at the premiere of River

The drama was created by Ruby Mhundwa, while Julius Rusere did the cinematography and editing. Natasha Nachi is the director and Mitchel Chirove is on sound. Nyamuyaruka was brought in for the screenwriting of course.

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Creator Ruby Mhundwa

River is a collaborative effort between two production houses, Inini Media and Goodshot Films; co-founded by Ruby Mhundwa and Julius Rusere. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Cinematographer Julius Rusere

The web series becomes the highlight of Inini Media and Goodshot Films’ extensive filmography; as the well-shot drama defines their thrust. As Nyamuyaruka puts it;

“Our principal element is that our productions are supposed to deliver on all aspects of production quality, hence the name Goodshot.

“We want to satisfy the idea of a movie - a film that moves. We always like our shots to move the audience.” 

Sheba Film Festival: A Home for ZimFlix Gems

As part of their tireless work in platforming fellow filmmakers, Inini Media and Goodshot Films launched the Sheba Independent Film Festival in 2022. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Sheba Film Festival 2022

The inspiration behind founding the festival was mainly driven by the dearth of platforms that showcase homegrown cinema. 

“Our theme when we launched in 2022 was that ‘we are looking for a home for our tales.’ The average viewer doesn’t even know where to go to watch Zimbabwean films, 

“Even (film) festivals that are run in Zimbabwe they didn’t even screen local films before we introduced Sheba,” bemoans the screenwriter.

After a successful inaugural edition in 2022, the team was surprised to see festivals that had previously shunned local films following in Sheba Film Festival’s footsteps, as Nyamuyaruka reveals; 

“When we introduced Sheba, almost all film festival organisers started taking local films because they discovered that there was a niche for that particular type of film, because of us.”

However, comparatively speaking, film does not attract the sizable audiences that other artforms do, which ran up fixed costs considering they had to hire a venue to pull off the 2022 edition. This is the main reason why they decided to take a hiatus in 2023 - to restrategise and find a location. 

“Coming in with film, you’re competing with music, fashion, art, stuff that’s already there. And you’re new, and you don’t have a space,” explains Nyamuyaruka. 

He did confirm this year’s edition of Sheba Film Festival, as the team is in the final stages of securing a permanent home for Sheba Film Festival. 

“We are working on a joint in Chitungwiza right now, we just need to finalize,” Nyamuyaruka revealed.

Television In The Internet Age

Quizzed on whether they’ll take River to tv, Nyamuyaruka answers, “I debunked working with tv channels, at least for now.”

Well this is fair, considering his experience with tv stations, as he fully explains his distillation from that 2022 debacle;

“Most of these new tv stations can’t tell the difference between their job and their business. They understand their job, but they don’t understand their business. That makes it really difficult to work with them.”

Chidochangu Jo-annah TengaRiver web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Behind the scenes of River Season 1 

The producer has decided to ditch the establishment and figure out alternative distribution models, motivated by the need to retain control of his works. 

“If I make content for myself, its mine. Whenever I want to go and sell it, I can just go and sell it. I retain ownership and control. The mantra in filmmaking is ‘content is king’,” he declares. 

So where to distribute River?

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Schoolmates in River; River, Monika, and Mandisa, shooting scenes for River Season 1

Of course, rather go online, where most of the audience has migrated to. 

“Right now, what we’re trying to do is identify with audiences. We are just going to do what the skitmakers are doing – throw it out for free online,” Nyamuyaruka explains.  

This might be a noble idea, but Nyamuyaruka admits they will be up against stiff competition in the form of established online content creators. 

“When it comes to viewership, skitmakers have more viewership that classical filmmakers, sometimes even more than the musicians. They have the numbers you can’t question that, and that’s why brands are identifying with them,” he remarks.  

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Cast and crew sharing a lighter moment on set
So how will the classical filmmakers differentiate themselves from the sea of content that is available online? Well, first off, we need to redefine what content is from the audience’s perspective. 

Yes, the audience can be entertained, but even more importantly they should be given content with substance, as Nyamuyaruka explains;

“A lot of people use the word ‘content’ loosely. Content is substance.”

The skitmakers may not be necessarily producing content with substance, but Nyamuyaruka believes the danger of viewing them as the standard lies in the nature of the content they produce. 

“They create what we call ‘viral content.’ And you can’t explain anything which is viral, nobody really understands why it’s even viral. Which is why it’s difficult for anybody to invest in it,” he says. 

If viral content cannot be invested in, then it should not be the standard, because classic filmmakers will not be able to make a decent living out of their craft. 

For him to consider skitmakers as his competition, Nyamuyaruka dares online content creators to directly monetize their content, which is essentially going even where the creators of Wadiwa Wepamoyo failed. 

“Is it really good, or it’s simply because it’s free? That’s the question I always have when it comes to skitmakers. If their material really that good, they should be able to put a price tag on it,” he comments.  

As for the sprouting tv stations that Nyamuyaruka has debunked, he still believes they have a crucial role to play in Zimflix, but it’s too soon to judge them. 

“If they run for three years, then we can start talking,” he quips. 

Final Thoughts

As the sun comes down at First Floor Gallery, we pick Nyamuyaruka’s mind on the future of ZimFlix. His answer; 

“Right now, it’s difficult to tell what the future of Zimbabwean film is.”

This is a fair analysis, and there are so many reasons to give; but the writer alludes the technological lag facing Zimbabwe as the main reason for the uncertainty the film industry faces. 

“Zimbabwe wasn’t ready for the digital revolution. Before we could even fully utilise 720p, 1080p came along, then 4K, and now smartphones can shoot at a professional level.”

Nyamuyaruka also predicted shrinking prospects for creatives, brought about by the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

“Before we can even understand digital, AI is here. For us to predict what the future looks like, with what AI is doing right now, it’s tricky. 

"I don’t even think photography will still exist in the next five years,“ he prophesies. 

Nyamuyaruka concludes by imploring his fellow filmmakers to seek audiences where they are – online; and make films that identify with fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora. 

“For Zimflix, the opportunity lies in streaming and diaspora audiences, largely,” he closes. 

River web series, Collin Nyamuyaruka, Inini Media, Goodshot Films, Fracter Pictures, Zimflix, Zim film and tv,
Official poster for River Season 1

And with that, Collin Nyamuyaruka shakes off the ‘dinosaur’ tag that most industry veterans are usually identified with. 

The screenwriter and his team seem well prepared for the inevitable proliferation of technology that has been almost impossible to keep up with. 

You can catch up on River from episode 1 to 3 on Facebook and Youtube. If you want a quick summary of this gripping family drama, you can watch the trailer below. Be sure to share your thoughts with us. 

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