A young Zimbabwean filmmaker has shone a spotlight on the institution of marriage and the challenges some couples face staying together in the face of the country’s economic hardships which has led to separation of couples, as some leave the country in search of greener pastures.
Actress Denise Edwards is the writer and producer of Wedding Diaries, a TV series currently airing on Sundays on Zambezi Magic, a channel on South Africa’s cable network, M-Net.
The filmmaker, who co-founded Invision Studios, a film production house in Zimbabwe which has produced several TV shows and helped kick start careers of first-time filmmakers, said she wanted to instill hope in marriage which is increasingly being portrayed as a crumbling institution.
“For us, we figured there are successful stories, out there. There are people who managed to work on their marriages years after the wedding day and it is not always doom and gloom, and we decided, you know lets share their stories, and get a feel of how they got celebrating love, and to encourage people to follow suit.”
While highlighting the fairytales of marriage, Edwards said she was not oblivious to the difficulties couples who separate face, but wanted to inspire hope.
“I feel like there are outside factors that affect marriages as a whole and for people right now, it’s a very difficult time, and couples need to understand that they need each other.”
PRELUDE TO MARRIAGE
Edwards, who is single but in a relationship, revealed her own worst fears of marital bliss and some of the disappointments many face.
“The worst thing to experience, is finding out my spouse has been married before, or he disappears from the face of the earth, I think.”
She shared her idea of what she considered an ideal husband.
“He would have to be someone who understands my line of work and my passion, he would have to be my best friend. If you don’t have a friendship to fall back on it’s very easy to walk away,” Edwards said.
She cautioned against taking the leap before one is ready, saying it important for an individual to fully who they are.
“Best time to get married would be when you are secure in yourself as an individual…Understanding yourself, goals, aspirations, what it is you want from life,” she said. “Then walking into a marriage where your partner understands who you are and everything else comes with being you. When you are sure of who you are, what you are, and that would be a good time to actually start considering, okay I want to get married. When we have got it together, when I know what I want, and he knows what I wants, then we are able to walk this path together.”
Edwards also addresses the challenges many married couples face who live apart because of circumstances, such as the emigration that has driven many to far away countries to seek better opportunities and support their families – the diaspora. She said Wedding Diaries incorporates testimonials of couples who’ve experienced hardships, to give hope.
“We have a segment where counselors come through on the show to give marriage advice. So far it helps promote situations which can be avoided for those who aren’t married and are planning to get married, and those who are in a bad situation. There are many disappointments on the diaspora where youth go through what they are faced with, but it is very possible to have a successful marriage and work through their environment and in that particular time.”
Edwards said she used her Wedding Diaries to identity areas critical to the survival of any marriage.
“Honesty should be the basis of every relationship, the ability to respect, support your partner and understand where they are coming from. This includes love above all,” said the filmmaker. “Certain things in life come and go, looks come and go at a certain age, and money comes and goes at a certain age. You may have lots of money today, but maybe something happens and you are broke. Things change.”
One aspect of marriage that Edwards said she also wanted to portray positively in Wedding Diaries, is the traditional and cultural practice of lobola or bride price, which some say is beginning to lose its value as some families exploit the practice for financial gains, because of the deteriorating economic situation.
“Actually traditional marriages are considered in the Wedding Diaries, we were looking at people who could have done lobola in terms of having footage or photos. It’s definitely part of our criteria,” she said, adding that “everybody has different types of weddings. We can’t all have white weddings.
CHASING THE DREAM
Edwards imparted two pieces of advice to youth with regards to g dreams and aspirations.
“For me being a filmmaker has always been a dream, as a child,” Edwards reminisced. “My parents wanted me to go into secretarial studies and I stuck it through, and now here I am with a few TV shows, feature films, never give up on your aspirations.”
“I think the second thing don’t rush into relationships, you don’t want to make the wrong decision and end up in a really bad state. Take your time and get to know someone, they will wait and when you are ready they will be ready too.”
Edwards acting and filming accolades include short films such as The House Sitter, Yamaha, Unicoi Demise, Lost, Psychedelic and the feature film Far from Yesterday, which was nominated for the 2016 National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) Outstanding Screen Production Full Length Film, and also the award-nominated Introspect. Edwards directed her first TV show, Wine and Dine with Tumi, in 2015.