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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Junk earns Zimbabwe film kudos

Steve Vickers
BBC, Harare

Film logo
The film was in the top five of 1,300 entries

A team of Zimbabweans has produced what they say is Africa's first full-length animated feature film, to international acclaim.

The Legend of the Sky Kingdom was made in Harare on a minimal budget and pioneers a technique called "junkmation".

The characters and sets in the film are made from discarded items such as car parts, tools, kitchen utensils, pipes and pieces of wood.

It's a movie made out of junk, coming out of a country that is last in the alphabet and pretty much last in everything at the moment
Roger Hawkins

The film took four years to make and has been chosen among the top five of 1,300 entries at the World Animation Festival in France.

"It's a movie made out of junk, coming out of a country that is last in the alphabet and pretty much last in everything at the moment, made by a complete bunch of unknowns," said director Roger Hawkins.

'Goldmine'

Junkmation was inspired by the ability that Zimbabwean craftsmen have to make pieces of art from wire, tin and other discarded items.

Block
The film is targeted at children
Mr Hawkins said that the level of skill and natural ability that people have to recycle objects is a goldmine.

"I thought if we could put this into a film we'd come up with something really unusual," he said.

"We became junk purists, we invited friends to dump rubbish outside our studio and we had a "junk librarian" who sifted through it all."

The resources used to produce the Legend of the Sky Kingdom contrast remarkably with one of the most commercially successful animated films, the 2000 production Chicken Run.

Chicken Run, was made using 30 studios, a staff of 150, and a budget of $42 million.

Egg sale

Fifteen people worked on The Legend of the Sky Kingdom in two studios, costing less than $1 million.

Badzai
The film budget was reduced by using recycled material

The film was funded largely through the sale of eggs from the poultry business of producer Phil Cunningham.

"None of us had done animation before, and we figured out a lot of short cuts and took it a step at a time," said Hawkins.

"We're amazed that, as a few people who dared to dream and had the courage and foolishness to try something, people around the world can be touched by what we've done."

The film is targeted at children, and has the theme "Seeing is believing."

Surprise

Three orphans escape the Underground City ruled by the Evil Emperor and go in search of the Sky Kingdom, facing many challenges along the way.

As well as its success at the World Animation Festival, the film also made the top five at the Asian Animation Festival in Korea.

There are plans to release the film in Southern Africa by the end of the year, with hopes for international distribution in 2004.

"We've had a lot of genuine surprise when people realise where it's come from and how it was made.

"You do have this feeling of working in obscurity and being out of touch with what's going on, so it's really exciting for us," said Hawkins.




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