Bongani Mlambo, aka Bongaj, is an artist, designer, photographer, and filmmaker, currently residing in Dallas, Texas. He was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, joining a family of four, and enjoyed his childhood and rich cultural heritage. Bongani is mad and passionate about creativity, expression, helping people, and telling stories visually. In his free time he dances, he drums, and he ponders on social issues and the meaning of life.
Over the years, Bongani has grown in film, photography, graphic design, painting, art, culture and diversity, and leadership. His work ethic and his ambition have afforded him the opportunity to work in different capacities in information technology, education, service, graphic design, and photography and film – in staff and freelance capacities.
In the future, Bongani wishes to work and excel in the film industry as a director, director of photography, and producer; in his own words, “become a master, a legend, a virtuoso.” Beyond this, he is passionate about sharing his knowledge and talents and in the future, plans to establish an arts & film school in Zimbabwe, inspiring and helping more Zimbabweans and Africans to pursue visual and performing arts. Learning from past experience, navigating the present, and hoping for the future, Bongani has begun his journey, is moving forward, and enjoying every moment.
What's the last project you worked on and what was the experience like?
The last project I worked on was a feature film by award winning filmmaker Ya'Ke Smith called "Wolf." We shot the film in three weeks and I was the 2nd Assistant Camera on set, doing camera logs, setting marks for actors, managing equipment, and operating and clapping the slate for every shot. It was a great experience and my first official feature film, working with a great camera crew (Yuta Yamaguchi, the cinematographer, and also with Vlad Alexander, the 1st AC), meeting other filmmakers, and getting to be on set with Irma P. Hall of Soulfood and Collateral! The film will hopefully screen at Sundance in 2012.
Your website is great and it shows a variety of things you can do. What is your main passion?
My main passion is story telling through visual media, mainly film, and more specifically, Cinematography. Photography comes a close second and design a more distant third. Overall, I am passionate and enjoy most visual art forms and performance.
How do you find the time to do all these things ( photography, designing, film making etc)?
Curiously enough - I don't! Well, at least not at the same time. Usually, I am balancing two at a time or changing from project to project. From hour to hour, or day to day, I am switching roles depending on my work and art. I imagine that first that you are an artist, then that allows you to channel your ability into any medium. Some better than others. Design Photography & Film work for me.
What is your vision?
My vision is to be a Cinematographer / Director of Photography on big budget feature films, shooting in Hollywood, in Hong Kong, in Bollywood, in Africa, and around the world. I would also love to direct a couple of my own feature films and also direct music videos. I have a handful of stories to tell. And some thoughts about social justice and social change. The, at some point during my career, I would also like to establish a Visual and Performing Arts School in Zimbabwe.
What projects have you worked on?
Over time, I have had the privilege of working with great people on numerous projects in design, photography, and film:
As a film student and then afterward, freelance filmmaker, I have directed 6 of my own short films (Modern Dance, RAGE, Xiake, and others), a documentary entitled "Interracial Relationships Documentary" that got picked up to be included in a textbook and receives regular comments on YouTube, and other projects for competitions. I have also been the cinematographer or director of photography on over 20+ short films and have helped on plenty more in various crew positions.
|Directing on the set of my short film 'Xiake'|
|On the set of my short film 'Xiake' applying fake blood.|
My photography projects range from portraits and people to fine art and events, from the Dallas Burlesque Festival to The Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus, from shooting for individuals and families to shooting for small businesses and corporations. My design projects include print, web, and motion graphics for The University of Texas At Arlington, Konzeni Foundation, Equanimity Magazine, to name a few.
Currently, my most notable projects include working as the creative director for Ben Lecomte for The Longest Swim. In 1998, Ben was the first man to swim across the Atlantic and in April 2012, he plans to swim across the Pacific - 5000 miles, 5 months! It is an awesome opportunity in which I also get to interface with and work with Emmy award winning producer of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch", Doug Stanley and his wonderful team at Ridgeline Entertainment.
Of all your projects which one is your favourite and why?
I am a terrible "favorites" person. Its hard to choose. One of them would have to be the University of Texas at Arlington Identity Project exhibit and documentary in 2010. While working for the Multicultural Affairs department, I served as head photographer, filmmaker, and event manager for the week-long gallery exhibit hosted in conjunction with the university wide Diversity Lecture Series. The series provides a venue for hosting nationally renowned experts on diversity. Almost 500 students, faculty, and staff participated. The documentary was shown as forward for visiting lecturer, Kip Fulbeck. Planning, directing, and executing the entire project was challenging and very fulfilling.
Is there a difference in the way you do things now than when you started out?
There is big difference in the way I do things now than when I first started, especially in regards to my process. Starting out I had no idea how I best dealt with the challenges presented artistically on projects, but now, I have a clearer understanding of how to get my ideas out, how to brainstorm, how to connect better with the material, and how long it takes me to do certain tasks. Artistically, I have matured a little bit and so ideas, methods, and the craft come a bit easier than in the beginning. I am still learning. The more I understand and improve myself, the more I can help and assist clients and collaborators.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to venture into this industry?
I guess for the career path that involves Freelancing, in any artistic field, or the life of an artist, my advice would be to hone your craft and become great at what you do. Never stop learning or growing. Then find people who place a value on that and you're set. Freelancing has its ups and downs so be prepared for both. Its about consistency and balance in the good times and the challenging times.
For anyone wanting to become a Filmmaker, go for it! Do not hold back. Connect and network with inspired capable people and let your stories be heard. Keep doing it. Make as many films as you can. Get on the highest quality productions you can and learn everything. Most importantly always be chill, cool, and make friends: You never know where your next job, project, or referral is coming from!
What is your hope for Zimbabwe and African artists and filmmakers?
I am excited about some of the artists I read and hear about making waves where they are. I would love to see more! More African and especially Zimbabwean artists in every discipline. Stand up and represent. Network and collaborate. Connect. Influence. And be present. I am always stuck wondering, who and where are other Zimbabwean artists sometimes? I am sure there are many, all around the world, and would love them to collaborate and come together more. Let's get a vibrant world class art community and film industry alive and kicking in Africa!
How can people get in touch with you?
Anyone interested in working together or collaborating can shoot me an email, text, or give me a call. My contact info, My work, and My portfolio are on my website: www.bongaj.com .
And more of my film work and my Cinematography Reel are on my Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/bongaj . My Youtube: www.youtube.com/
Find me on Facebook (Bongani Mlambo) and Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bongani_bongaj