In her work Jessie has
- the award winning Between Rings , her first feature length film co-directed with Salla Sorri which has shown at several festivals across the world and won her woman of the year in film and diploma of merits for best film in Tampere film festival
- founded young Cinema in Zambia and Zambia short film festival
- was selected as a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow
- Written and directed six short films
Where did all this start?
I started writing stories when I was 12.In school I was always good in literature and storytelling – I effortlessly excelled in those subjects.
After I finished school I was introduced to Catherine Kaseketi who introduced me to film and trained and mentored me for a long time. I worked with her on Suwi, the kitchen party. I was also coached by Sakafunya Chinyika who really helped me believe in myself. Over time I got many opportunities to work closely with directors on films which gave me a lot of exposure and opened up my eyes to more and learn more. I also worked on Karl Francis’ hope eternal as a continuity girl and all these people taught me and trained me.
Study wise, I graduated from the Zambia Institute of Mass media in 2008 and got a scholarship to study in Finland in 2009. Whilst in Finland I applied to and was accepted to the Durban Talent Campus where for the first time I pitched a project. Being there surrounded by and learning from all these talented people really improved my confidence. Young and ambitious as I was, I then applied to the highly competitive Belinale Talent Campus in Germany. I was so humbled and affirmed when my project Woman on hold to the doc station was among the 12 selected projects from over a thousand applicants and I was admitted. The exposure and knowledge I acquired in these places was priceless. When my project got the best pitch review and the most promising film at Berlinale, it just cemented my resolve and aspirations to do professional film making.
I love filmmaking and I found people who taught and trained me and several opportunities to study, learn and train with the best.
So you pretty much had it all set then. Things just aligned for you and it’s been as easy rise for you then. Were there any challenges at all and how did you navigate them?
No. It was never an easy rise.
To start with no one believed in me and I and had to prove them wrong. Everyone used to think I was just a dreamer. Who talks about a being a film director at 16 and becomes so committed to it they breathe and think films soo much in a country where at that time industry is non-existence or barely starting. I knew what I wanted but there was not any proof that I would make it and I had to keep pushing myself and believing in it.
Being accepted into the various programs I went to was a blessing as I learnt and trained with the best but that meant I also had to do much more. I was working and learning with people who had so much more exposure, experience and even backgrounds and I was just Jessie from Zambia . I had to work really hard and get my own performance up to standard and excel.
This industry is tough. Being young , African and a woman I had to brace myself for the challenges because I knew the more I wanted and did ,it was not going to get any easier but I remained persistent and focused and consistency. Art is about consistency and managing your inner desires.
Some of the lowest points were realising that after working so hard and persisting to become so good some people would not want to associate with you nor hire you. When I started my career, I had to prove that I can and could so when I then got to a place where I could do my work so well it was very hard to realise certain people started blocking opportunities for you possibly because they imagine you may take lime light. At that point it gets very lonely and heart breaking because you know you are not there to compete with anyone but you just want to do what you love.
It’s also challenging to be in a male dominated world. Up to now even at the office or on set men do not respect me. They always want to undermine my position and make me feel like just because they are men, they can do my work better than me. When faced with that resistance to my authority I have learnt to just put my feet down and stand firm. I have now learnt that for us a woman, being good at what we do speaks for us. We do not have to fight we just have to work hard and work smart.
What were the greatest highlights and in those moments what did you learn or value?.
One of the highlights for me has been coming to peace with the thorns and roses of my work. I have come to be comfortable with the challenges and benefits of what I do. And that peace brings a drive that does not seek attention but rather, it is a freedom of expression that cannot be marginalized by gender. The life lessons I have learnt through my work are the highlights.
I now realize that persistence, consistency and simply being oneself garner immediate results towards one's success. Though my young career has had more setbacks than successes, there was never a day when I felt I should quit, and even in those short moments when I may have felt that way, I immediately returned to my goal. I do not regard myself as someone special or privileged. I do believe that whatever I have achieved to date has been a result of hard work, criticism and long hours of dreaming. The reward and recognition are just affirmations of these highlights.
What are your values and priorities? What has kept you grounded during the highs and the lows?
God keeps me grounded. Knowing that I am a working project and all things work together for good to those who believe.
I also believe in: never be lazy, never be greedy and respect others.
I have faith in myself and I try as much to practice with people I trust
My current passion project is AfricaCAN. The dream is to see 1,000,000 young people tell stories about Africa that the world has not heard or seen. Stories of tenacity, resilience, entrepreneurship and innovations. Stories that will paint Africa in best possible light. If we want have to change the world we have to tell AfricaCAN positive stories because it’s important to brand Africa in a manner that builds and heals our continent. When we constantly tell stories of the struggles and the challenges we become demotivated and defeated. But when we share stories of growth, strength and success we light up hope, inspiration and determination.I want my stories reflect the world that Imagine and rebrand Africa in a positive way.
Who have been some of the most influential people in your life and what were your greatest learnings from them?
My mother- she was a woman who cared for others. She taught me a lot of the things I know and that people are very important and it imperative to have healthy relation that can build you professionally and personally. You success depends entirely on how you treat others and I am grateful for the people who have trained and taught me.
What do you believe to be the meaning and purpose of life and what is your part in all this?
My purpose in life is to write my story through God wisdom in way that it should reflect the good things of life and define me in a way that when I die, it will have impacted many other people.
Where can your work be found and how can we regularly tap into your wisdom.
Most of the projects have facebook pages
Zambia short film festival
My personal accounts are Facebook