By UK Correspondent & Agencies
GLOBAL streaming giant Netflix is shutting down two film projects that were in pre-production, one of them the musical ‘Tunga’ by US-based Zimbabwean creator Godwin Jabangwe.
Sources close to the project told NewZimbabwe.com Friday that the team was disappointed over the announcement as “many people had lost their jobs”.
The development is the result of an ongoing restructuring of Netflix’s animation unit after the company announced plans to cut costs by some $300 million earlier this year.
The other cancelled project, a film titled ‘Escape From Beverly Hills’, will be put back on the open market while ‘Tunga’ goes back into development.
“Essentially, (for Tunga) this means the project is not dead,” sources told NewZimbabwe.com.
“Netflix owns the project and still intend to make it; we hope that continues,” the sources added when asked whether the film could be taken elsewhere.
Netflix won a four-way bidding battle for Jabangwe’s animated family adventure back in 2019 for a reported a mid-six figure guarantee, retaining him as a writer on the project.
Commenting on what was his first sale, Jabangwe said at the time; “I never dreamed that a story set in Zimbabwe, on the streets that I grew up playing soccer with a homemade ball, would get made.
“I’m thrilled to be working with Netflix to bring Tunga to life and grateful to Imagine Impact for helping me take the strand of an idea and weaving it into a tale that I truly hope the world will love.”
The film, which is inspired by Shona mythology, tells the story of a young girl named Tunga, who – after the death of her father – must venture to a mythical lost city where her people’s spiritual elders can teach her how to summon the rain and save her village from a long-enduring drought.
Accompanying Tunga is her animal totem Zuze — a wooden figurine that comes to life as a trouble-making honey badger — who Tunga must learn to trust and work with in order to complete her journey.
Jabangwe discovered screenwriting while working eight hour shifts in a community college library.
He had left Zimbabwe for the United States with one suitcase and a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. He later graduated the UCLA screenwriting MFA programme.