African Fixer

MALAWI – A Small Piece Of The Action For Malawi’s Film Producers

October 10, 2023

Many film producers and Reality TV Show productions traveling across Southern Africa stop over for a day in Malawi to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Lake Malawi. This small landlocked country with its warm, hospitable people often features as an interlude in such television productions as BBc’s ‘100 Women’, “Riding a bike from Cape to Cairo’ and ‘Harry and Meghan In Africa’.

Malawi is one of the smallest countries in Africa and the landscape is dominated by Lake Malawi that accounts for one fifth of the country’s total area. Other parts of the country also offer the potential for interesting film locations, but as they do not compare with similar locations in neighboring countries they are often overlooked.

At African Fixer we encourage production companies filming in neighboring South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania or Zimbabwe to spend a day in Malawi to discover its warmth and beauty.

A Young Film Industry Making Slow Strides

 Netflix’s commitment to raising the profile of African cinema gave local film producers and directors in Malawi the opportunity to begin growing their young film industry. Although this industry does not compare with that of countries like South Africa, Kenya or Nigeria, it is making slow but steady strides.

‘The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind’, directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor tells the true story of a boy who built a wind turbine to save his village from famine. It is based on the 2013 documentary ‘William and The Windmill’. Despite the country’s lack of infrastructure, for Ejiofor it made sense to shoot the film in Malawi where the story is set, unlike the documentary that was made in South Africa.

The same rationale was used by director, scriptwriter and film producer Charles Shemu Joyan, who turned three of his novels that were never published into movies instead. While studying in Zimbabwe he fell in love with film production and taught himself everything he could about filming in Africa.

Thanks to Netflix’s commitment to assisting aspiring local film-makers, his latest movie, ‘The Road To Sunrise’ made it to the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the United States. However, in interviews with the press, Joyan continues to stress that the greatest challenge for film productions in Malawi is finding distribution channels.


From The Bushes To The Beach

The road infrastructure between Malawi and neighboring countries is in excellent condition and there are regular flights between Johannesburg or Harare and the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe as well the commercial center Blantyre.

Film crews shooting in the bush in South Africa, Mozambique or Zimbabwe frequently head to Lake Malawi to relax at the famous Kaya Mawa Retreat, the country’s premier beach resort. They also serve as film equipment suppliers for local production companies.

There are 9 private islands across Lake Malawi that provide secluded, luxury lodges with breathtaking views of the wilderness of Mozambique on the other side of the lake.

Film crews can also spend a day taking a trip from Lake Malawi to the Zomba Massif, a mountain in the south of the country that connects it to The Rift Valley. It is an oasis of calm that is radically different from the rest of the Malawian landscape, as it boasts rare varieties of plants and offers spectacular views of cedar, pine and cypress forests from the summit.

The town of Zomba on the shore of Lake Malombo was the first capital of British Central Africa, and its colonial past is reflected in the architecture of buildings and homes. Although sightings are rare, the plateau is home to leopards, baboons and the long-crested eagle.

Film Permits And Media Accreditation

Applying for film permits in Malawi is determined by the type of location a production company wants to shoot in. There is a special permit for the National Parks of Kasungu, Lake Malawi, Lengwe and Nyika. Film permits for Nature Reserves are granted depending on the number of days of shooting, the size of the film crew and the purpose of the production.

African Fixer recommends that we scout a private lease property for your film production, as obtaining a Media Accreditation Card can take up to 6 weeks. Regardless of the type of production and the type of film permit applied for, Media Accreditation is a requirement for all film production companies and crews. You will also need the best African Film Fixer to source film equipment and a line producer, as everything required for a production needs to be imported from South Africa or Kenya.

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