Shot Out of Africa Shot Out of Africa
Issue 014

Shot Out of Africa

by Joseph Huff-Hannon

January 15, 2009
During the summers when filmmaker Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding) isn't on set or in the editing suite, you'll find her overseeing the action at the Maisha Film Lab, a film school she founded in Uganda, which provides professional training to emerging screenwriters and film directors from East Africa and South Asia.GOOD: What inspired you to launch Maisha?Mira Nair: I first came to Uganda in 1989 to research my film Mississippi Masala. I was deeply inspired by the rich storytelling traditions of Uganda, but I found that there was no bridge to bring these stories to the screen. I'm a former mentor at Sundance and other filmmaking labs in the United States and Europe, so I wanted to make similar training initiatives available to the East African filmmaking community as well.G: Is Maisha structured like an artists' residency?MN: We are a nonprofit, so all of our programs are free of charge. The centerpiece of the program is our Summer Training Lab, a 26-day filmmakers' boot camp. Students apply for training in writing, directing, cinematography, editing, sound, acting, and production. We invite mentors from all over the world to work with the participants, both in one-on-one sessions and guiding them on set.[good width="560" height="316" image="null"][/good]G: How are films developed at Maisha?MN: Our reading committee selects nine screenwriters, who start with a seven-day, intensive writing workshop-where they rework and revise their scripts with mentors. At the end of this period, three scripts are chosen to go into production. During the writing workshop, cinematographers, editors, sound mixers, and actors work with their own respective mentors. Finally, during the production stage, we shoot three short films, entirely crewed by our participants.G: Why do we need more African and South Asian cinema on the world market?MN: There are parts of Africa where there is more of an infrastructure for large-scale film production, like South Africa. The industry in East Africa is in its infancy, though certainly making strides. There are more and more people in our target countries who can make their livelihood as film professionals. I think the world is hungry for change-shown recently by our historic election. Cinema, too, allows us to encompass our hybrid identities, be resolutely who we are, and be fully engaged with the world. Maisha creates a platform for unheard voices to be articulated on-screen. Our motto is "If we don't tell our stories, no one else will."LEARN MORE
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Shot Out of Africa