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by Nigel M Smith
July 7, 2011 7:49 AM
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East African Sundance Institute Theater Lab Selects Participants

Four new projects and 13 artists have been selected to participate in the second Sundance Institute Theater Lab on Manda off the coast of Kenya in East Africa. The two-week exchange and development program, modeled on the annual Sundance Institute Theater Labs, was set up to provide guidance and support for East African filmmakers.

"The insight and feedback we received for last year’s charter Theater Lab on Manda affirmed our belief that cultural exchange informs arts and artists on a deep level," said Philip Himberg, Producing Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute Theater Program in a statement. "We look forward to working with the projects and artists selected for this year’s Lab and to contribute to appreciation for East African theater artists."

In addition to the Fellows, participating artists from the region include: Andnet Dagnew (Ethiopia), Philip Luswata (Uganda), Mumbi Kaigwa (Kenya), Schollarstickar Luwi (Tanzania), Pili Malundila (Tanzania) and Angel Uwamahoro (Rwanda). Creative Advisors for the Lab are: Hope Azeda (Rwanda), Lynn Nottage (USA), Stew (USA), Indhu Rubasingham (UK) and Liesl Tommy (USA/South Africa).

The four selected projects are (synopses courtesy of the Sundance Institute:

"Desperate to Fight," By Meaza Worku Berehanu (Ethiopia)
Marta has been divorced three times, and now she’s not sure if she wants to give marriage a fourth try. Tormented by a the sounds of a newly and seemingly happily-wedded couple living next door, she wrestles with her past and the memories of her former husbands. How can Marta reconcile her principles and justify those extreme feelings of love and fury that come with marriage? Desperate to Fight is a sophisticated, witty and paradoxical story about relationships, love and marriage from the heart of the gender-struggles in contemporary Addis Ababa.

"He is Here He Says I Say," By Margaret Namulyanga (Uganda)
Ruth is a young woman who throughout her life has listened to the advice of others to guide her in her role as a woman. After all, in different Ugandan cultures, there are norms that clearly state what a good woman should be like! Marriage, pleasing men and being subservient to men top the list. In this poetic meditation, Ruth decides to do what is not expected of a woman. She counters the orders of others with a candid personal voice and her belief that the time is right for women to stop following societal norms blindly. He is Here He Says I Say asks us to answer honestly: what is “a good woman”?

"Mo Faya," By Eric Wainaina (Kenya)
DJ Lwanda’s voice rings out daily on local radio, leading and inspiring the Nairobi community of Kwa Maji. But Anna Mali, an avaricious real estate diva, craves the land beneath their slum. She seduces the fiery young DJ away with a job at a top nationwide station, and organizes a violent campaign to terrorize the people of Kwa Maji. When the government and media turn a blind eye to the decapitated bodies in the streets, DJ Lwanda must return home to expose the truth. But at what cost? Well-known Kenyan musician Eric Wainaina is composer, lyricist and book writer of this dynamic work of musical theatre.

"Safari Ya Mwandale/Mwandale’s Journey," By Irene Sanga (Tanzania)
This project takes you on the journey of a young Tanzanian girl to become who she believes she can be. Having been denied many privileges and opportunities because of her gender, Mwandale, now a woman, recounts the story of the sacrifices she made and her crucial struggle with her father to transform limitations into challenges. In Kiswahili using a combination of narration and music, the Sanga looks at the effects of a patriarchal society that keeps the African continent “a continent of beggars” in spite of its enormous resources – particularly women. Mwandale speaks on behalf of the independence of all African women and their potential role in social transformation.

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