Flame employs a manipulation of the position of its audience to discuss transitional aspects of Zimbabwean society after liberation. By using the title character as the symbolic center of a narrative otherwise cast in the stylistic guise of documentary, it engages the shifting perception of her role and meaning in the historical context. In a series of flashbacks the narrator invokes the Bush war in Southern Rhodesia, and the heroic, nearly iconic position of Flame as a soldier of that movement. Her personal losses mount during the conflict, small tragedies that are a point of identification for the audience, but she never wavers from the cause of independence.
By contrast the present day finds Flame aimless and uncertain. The point of view of the narrator is brought into focus and Flame becomes a more complex figure, one that reveals the conflicted nature of a society so long enmeshed in fighting that the conception of a future without it has changed allegiances irrevocably. She becomes the one fluid element in a recital or litany of the African history of Rhodesia and, in her symbolic relation to the text, illuminates the system-wide collapse of a once shared identity. What is emotionless in the narrative is precisely the absence of defining ideals not based on opposition endemic to former colonies. Thus, Flame is a representation of the unfolding reexamination not only of history but of the people within it, and the progressive psychological effect upon lives in passage from one form to another.
The role of Third Cinema in transitional societies increased to absorb its new function of arbiter and truth-teller, a task given it in large part by an audience tacitly aware of the long slant of African filmmakers toward social realism and consequent identification with the oppressed. Armed with the authority of such credentials artists suddenly free of pervasive censorship found themselves well suited to the formulation of a new identity. At the same time they were faced with a society splintering in freedom. The plight of Flame, who seems not merely aimless but at least passively ostracized, was an experience widely repeated. "A concerted effort to crystallize national struggles and identities may be an indication of a society that is moving to regain its belief in itself." For the filmmaker, then, identification of Flame as a symbolic point of contestation among a people who are looking forward at the expense of rejecting the past altogether is the crucial first step in any elaboration of the founding ideals that will bind them together under one state. As a docudrama the film educates by bringing revolutionary theory into the mainstream. At the same time it personifies the immensity of change, so that the issue of Flame's acceptance within society is seen in the light of its implications for the ultimate rejection of the colonial conception of a rebel. The character is faced with a kind of dull hostility, with in fact the same uneasiness that marks the relationship between audience and filmmaker. The people of Zimbabwe were immediately confronted by the stark fact that involvement in the global market was crucial to survival, and revolutionaries quickly became embarrassments, engendering both guilt and distance in the populace self-consciously enjoying the fruits of victory. Ukadike describes the characteristic of "immediacy" as "the invocation of past events to explain the present situation, or even the use of present events to amplify past event in order to make them more immediate"; here, Ingrid Sinclair utilizes a narrative structure embodying both approaches. Past and present alternate. The context of Flame's dislocation becomes apparent, and as a symbol attempts to reconcile them. There is no clear resolution save that left to the viewer.
Ukadike, F. (1995). "The Other Voices of Documentary: Allah Tantou and Afrique, je te Plumerai", Screen (1995).