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Documentary Film iThemba to be Shown at UW

November 12, 2014
woman pushing young man in wheelchair
Producer and director Elinor Burkett assists Marvelous Mbulo, lead vocalist of the Zimbabwean band Liyana. The band overcame many obstacles to perform in its own country. (Errol Webber/Loli and Rex Photo)

A feature-length documentary film about a group of Zimbabwean musicians with physical disabilities will be shown free Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the University of Wyoming College of Business auditorium.

Directed and produced by Elinor Burkett and produced by Errol Webber, the film “iThemba” follows members of the band Liyana, who navigate a country where many of their neighbors consider them to be cursed. Producer Burkett will lead a discussion following the film. She is the fall 2014 visiting scholar in global studies at UW.

The funny and talented young people take viewers with them as they travel across the city of Bulawayo and into remote villages, to rural bottle shops and urban marketplaces, inside the huts of traditional healers and the neighborhoods of the urban poor. The film depicts an Africa rarely seen by outsiders, a place where tradition is not necessarily gentle, where it threatens to trap the unfortunate, and where a few fight back.

The film is filled with an endless flow of the band’s jokes and satire and its amazing Afro-fusion melodies, most composed by members of Liyana.

“Zimbabwe is a country where more people die of AIDS, malnutrition and lack of medical care each week than are killed in Afghanistan, Iraq or Darfur,” Burkett says. “Hospitals operate without doctors, urban neighborhoods suffer months without water, and unemployment tops 90 percent. Imagine navigating that country from a wheelchair or with some other disability in a culture where the disabled are seen as cursed.”

For more information, call (307) 766-6119 or email

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