The Mbira Series: Mbira Dza Vadzimu - Religion at the Family Level
The life of Shona mbira player Gwanzura Gwenzi coexists in both the traditional and modern worlds: he works in the city for a large western corporation; at his rural homestead, he is the family head who hosts all-night spirit ceremonies, called bira. His sister Francisca is the family medium for the spirit of Kaodza, their great-grandfather.
The highlight and centerpiece of the film is a bira, perhaps the only one ever completely captured on film. We see the various stages and liturgical components of the ceremony, culminating in the arrival of the spirits late at night. Francisca’s daughter, now-famous mbira player Stella Chiweshe becomes possessed by a snake spirit.
Kaodza arrives through Francisca, and the family confers with the spirit in an extraordinary scene that shows how ancestors interact with the living.