Tatenda Mbudzi, Global vision

Global vision     By Gary Frank

For Tatenda Mbudzi, perhaps the most treasured memory of his time at Ithaca College is rooted in one of the worst moments of his life.

During the winter break of his junior year, the television-radio major returned to his home in Zimbabwe for the first time since leaving for college two-and-a-half years earlier. His visit, which he filmed for a self-produced documentary, Kudzoka, would be the last time Mbudzi would see his father alive. The elder Mbudzi passed away a few months later.

“I learned about the value of friendships,” says Mbudzi. “When I needed someone after my father died, my friends were there for me. When I screened the documentary in Ithaca, they all showed up. It was a hopeful experience.”

The recipient of an Ithaca Leadership Scholarship, a President’s Scholarship, and a Dana Internship, Mbudzi first learned of Ithaca College through Rebecca Mano, director of the United States Educational Advising Center at the U.S. embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Mbudzi told Mano he wanted to study communications, and she recommended IC because of its academic reputation and smaller size.

A former resident adviser and recipient of the Peggy R. Williams Award for Academic and Community Leadership, Mbudzi says his fascination with television goes back to his childhood.

 “I remember watching Looney Tunes and noticing the similarity between Bugs Bunny and one of the tales, or ngano, that my grandmother used to tell: ‘Tsuro ne Gudo,’ or ‘Rabbit and Baboon,’ which many Zimbabweans know well,” he recalls. “These are fables in which the shrewd hare outwits a range of creatures, including humans. There were only 15 minutes of cartoons broadcast each day, and I lived for those 15 minutes.” He started drawing and making cutouts of the television characters to extend the stories when they weren’t on the air.

At IC, Mbudzi gained hands-on television experience working at ICTV. But his interests began to gradually shift from television to mass media and its implications on international trends. “I became more interested in how culture and media affect each other, how people see themselves and others in the world as the result of media, and how the two affect each other reciprocally,” he explains.

Filming Kudzoka was one of his first expressions of this new focus. His interests deepened when he was selected in 2009 to spend his spring break traveling to South Africa with a film crew that was making a documentary about the play Train to 2010, concerning the fragile state of South Africa as it prepares to host the World Cup soccer tournament in summer 2010. A series of internships with NBC Universal during summer and fall 2009, before and during his semester in the Ithaca College Los Angeles Program, paved the way for an entrepreneurial venture during his last semester, assembling a crew and producing an ICTV show, aptly named “The Tatenda Show.”

Looking ahead, Mbudzi hopes to attend graduate school eventually, but for the near future he plans to head to Los Angeles. His long-range goals are to use his education and experience, and what he will learn in the future, to produce media that will inspire people in Zimbabwe and around the world.