Interview: Mira Tanna-Händel On Funding & Production Strategies For Contemporary African Cinema
décembre 2013 | Faits de société | Cinéma/TV | États-Unis
Source : Shadow and Act


by Vanessa Lanari /// Shadow and Act
Curatrice du director’s eye project (dont la Kenyane Hawa Essuman est lauréate) pour la Fondation lettera27, Vanessa Lanari s’entretient ici (en anglais) avec la scénariste et réalisatrice Mira Tanna-Händel.

Mira Tanna-Händel. est née au Kenya de parents indiens et vit actuellement à Berlin. Elle a écrit et réalisé des longs métrages et courts fictions ainsi que des documentaires pour BBC, Channel 4 et ARD.


As curator of the director’s eye project for lettera27 Foundation, I interviewed Mira Tanna-Händel, scriptwriter and director.

Mira Tanna-Händel was born in Kenya to Indian parents and currently lives in Berlin. She has written and directed feature films, documentaries and short films for BBC, Channel 4 and ARD.

Salme’s Freedom is her third feature film script and is set in Zanzibar. Salme is the story of the impulsive youngest daughter of the Sultan who tires of living in the palace. After meeting a German trader, Salme and her new partner decide to run away.

The interview is the second chapter of series of discussions with female African directors that focuses on funding and production strategies for contemporary cinema.

Vanessa Lanari: Tell us about your experience on the Salme’s Freedom screenplay. How did you have the idea and how did you develop the work that brought you to the final version?

Mira Tanna-Händel: I was born in East Africa, in Mombasa to be precise. I left Kenya when I was 11 years old. Many years later while searching for stories about my Indian ancestors in Africa, I came across Salme. In the Zanzibar archives I saw memoirs of an Arab Princess called Emily Ruete. This combination of a German name for an Arab woman was intriguing for me. The memoirs of Princess Salme or Emily Ruete turned out to be so fascinating that I began planning a feature film. I discussed the idea with people at a Screenwriters’ Association meeting in Berlin, where my idea found a partner. I came across an article about Media Mundus’s Babylon International Programme, which was looking for ideas for treatments or scripts related to Africa and Europe. I saw this as my platform for getting the script developed. I was accepted onto the programme and the outcome of the two Babylon workshops held in Berlin and Abuja was a first draft and a screener. I won a travel bursary to attend a film market of my choice. At the Cordoba African Film Market in October 2012, I attended a special workshop to learn pitch my project to a jury. My project won special mention from the jury members for telling a complex story in an elegant manner. My project has been taken on board by two producers from Europe and Africa. Once we have a German partner the team will be complete as more than half of the film takes place in Hamburg and Berlin.

VL: What other screenplays have you written?

Mira Tanna-Händel: I have written two screenplays which are in the development process. One is about a young illegal African migrant who is found hiding in a German village. He comes under the wings of a woman who has always lived life according to the rules. The other story is set in the Philippines where a German businessman suddenly finds himself in a dilemma when confronted with preserving his paradise island or supporting a revolutionary movement in this area.

VL: In your experience, what are the positive and negative connotations of being a screenwriter in the context of African cinema?

MTH: In my opinion, the positive side is that the field is still wide open for stories from Africa.

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