Yellow Card's great leap


Yellow Card's great leap Tiynane, Linda & Juliet

When MFD first proposed making a light and youthful film about a seventeen year old boy with uncontrollable hormones and a passion for football, the idea was to produce a neat US$500 000 movie on 16 mm, much like earlier films from their stable. But MFD's excellent record, combined with the exciting prospects of reaching farther and deeper into Africa, so excited granting agencies that the film budget bounced up to US$1,5 million.

"The vision became larger," says Riber and there was more money to invest in on-screen quality.

The decision was made to shoot Yellow Card on 35 mm Panavision, a cinematic format that would significantly enhance its possibilities for world-wide theatrical release. Producers Louise and John Riber decided to hire a cinematographer who could deliver the goods.

That person was American Director of Photography, Sandi Sissel (ASC), best known for her cinematography on Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay. Ms Sissel accepted the job, at a fraction of her normal fee, because she liked the story and the chance to reach millions of young people on the African continent.

MFD had never filmed on this scale before. Lighting and rigging requirements doubled for the small crew. Camera positions and movements became more critical too. Numerous action scenes including the football sequences, a storm during a love scene, all required extra attention to detail.

MFD plans to show Yellow Card at several festivals in Africa -- in Carthage and Zanzibar, both mid-year, at the Southern African Film Festival in October and at Fespaco next year. Plans are afoot to seek out selection in May 2000 for the Cannes Festival Directors' Fortnight which tends to showcase new directors, World Cinema (in other words, off-Hollywood cinema) and alternative movies outside the American and European mainstream.

Said Riber: "Cannes would be good. Everyone that's anyone will be there and any other world-wide distribution won't hurt."

Africa is the main prize, however. While MFD would relish a splash of recognition at the world's greatest cinema mart, the basic business is about building an effective industry at home, in Zimbabwe.

With that in mind, MFD had the foresight to use the film project as a way of investing long-term in the business of film-making. Part of the grant package was the inclusion of a state-of-the-art, digital Avid editing suite.

The Avid has revolutionised cutting options for editor Louise Riber. It is cheaper, and quicker than physically cutting reels of footage. There are no work prints, no chemicals, no film storage, no freight and shipping costs, just state of the art computer power.

The sound will be edited by engineer Rick Griebno on MFD's new 24 track Pro-Tools system, imported especially for Yellow Card. With clear dialogue from Dirk Bombey's original sound recording on set, plus his meticulous attention to ambiance, mixed with musical Steve Dyer's soundtrack, the sound mix has superb foundations.

Yellow Card represents a great leap forward for film technology in Zimbabwe.


John and Louise Riber have combined their talents once again in the making of Yellow Card. The project has been a first for both of them, in the sense that this is John's feature length directorial debut and, for Louise, the first time she has used her editing skills on a state of art Avid computerised editing equipment.

They have been making films in the development arena since 1979, in Bangladesh and in India where they were both born and raised. They made dramatic social message films. It was not until they came to Zimbabwe in 1987 that their pioneering ideas for using cinematic entertainment as a way of communicating social messages really began to take off.

The first of these was Consequences, a teenage pregnancy film, which was the precursor to Yellow Card. It won numerous festival awards and its successful distribution throughout the continent propelled Media For Development into a completely new African market that combined box office cinema with grassroots video distribution.

The Ribers have since produced several other award-winning films - the ever-popular Neria, More Time and Everyone's Child. These films have boosted Zimbabwean technical and acting expertise and have also launched new careers in the film industry as a result of MFD's hands-on training of promising talent. In addition, the Ribers have made several 'soaps' whose critical focus has been on reproductive health issues in Africa.

Another feature of the Ribers' film-making has been an emphasis on developing original soundtracks on their films. Many of these film themes are now household tunes throughout the region.

The Ribers are now permanently resident in Zimbabwe. In little over a decade they have instigated probably the most extensive film distribution network in Africa. As they turn over new ideas for creating movies with a social conscience, they are challenging the borders of commercialism and helping to push a budding film industry towards viability.