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Shadow & Act Black Filmmakers To Watch: Rungano Nyoni

Shadow & Act Black Filmmakers To Watch: Rungano Nyoni

First… rehashing changes I previously noted about the annual Shadow & Act Black Filmmakers To Watch series in the announcement I posted about 2 weeks ago, if only for those who missed it to catch up (you can skip the next 2 paragraphs, if you’ve already read them).

– Say goodbye to the once-every-12-months list of 10 to 20 filmmakers, and say hello to what will be an ongoing series, profiling black filmmakers who we feel deserve individual spotlights. Each week, we’re introduced to the works of black filmmakers (and we’re considering the entire diaspora, not just black American filmmakers) that impress us enough, suggesting the idea that something continuous, throughout the year, makes more sense, than publishing a single list annualy. We want to highlight as many filmmakers as we can, especially in this climate that sees only a handful of *black films* every year that enjoy anything close to broad awareness; and also, in part, to combat the notion that there isn’t enough variety in what stories we can tell, and how we choose to tell them. I think we get so distracted and depressed about what we don’t have, that we tend to forget to appreciate those who are toiling away in creative silence/obscurity. And I realize it’s best to show who/what else is out there that we don’t already know about en masse, or that we do know about, but, for one reason or another, aren’t paying as much attention to, as we probably should.

– Second, unlike previous years, our emphasis will be on relatively *unknown* filmmakers; our goal is to highlight those filmmakers who are producing work (whether still in film school, making short films, or veterans who’ve been making films for years, and everything between), but just haven’t quite yet been *discovered* if you will (of course that’s a loaded word, because it could mean any number of things, to any number of people; but instead of listing specific criteria, I’ll just let the posts speak for themselves); essentially, filmmakers we believe are creating interesting work, who haven’t received much attention, and who we believe you all should definitely know about (if you don’t already). There’s a reason why I’ve repeatedly requested that filmmakers we haven’t covered, contact us, and introduce yourselves and your work; it’s so that we can get to know you, and your work, for this purpose (and others). I continue to encourage that STRONGLY! As I’ve said before, we try to stay as connected and informed as we can; however, we don’t know of every single black filmmaker and every single black film in circulation, every year. We rely on you folks to assist in providing some of that knowledge as well.

So now that you know all that… here’s the second of many filmmakers who will be featured in this new S&A Black Filmmakers To Watch format (Canadian writer/director Alfons Adetuyi was the first, profiled last week; you can read that HERE).

This week it’s British/Zambian filmmaker Rungano Nyoni (photo above) whose last film, the enchanting, whimsical Mwansa The Great, is a Focus Features Africa First alum, which I saw earlier last year at the 2011 New York African Film Festival.

The film centers on 8-year old Mwansa, who, in an attempt to prove he is a hero just like his late father, goes on a quest to find the “magical” substance necessary to fix his sister’s broken doll, and finally prove that he is in fact destined for greatness.

I found it to be a touching tribute to childhood innocence and dreams, with a nod to the familiar struggles between African tradition and modernity; on the other side of Mwansa’s small village, sits an industrial plant mining the earth for minerals – the “magical” substance Mwansa seeks to rebuild his sister’s doll.

I loved watching this, notably the sequences in which we are presented with filmic visualizations of each child’s imagination and perception of themselves.

The film has screened at 19 Film Festivals worldwide this year alone, winning awards, acclaim and fans along the way.

Mwansa The Great was also nominated for a British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) in the short film category, by the way, and was recently made available Stateside on Hulu, embedded below, so you can watch it for yourselves right now.

Rungano (whose first name means “story”) is also a writer and an actress. Her most recent effort was penning the script for a 2012 short thriller titled The Mass Of Men, but she isn’t the director (Gabriel Gauchet, a multiple award winning filmmaker, who co-wrote and edited Mwansa The Great, is directing). 

Look for Rungano to continue to appear both in front and behind the camera, as she continues to develop projects solo and in collaboration with others.

Currently, she says that she’s working on a feature film (which I’m exctied about) – one that she’s been developing since last year, but she understands will take some time to eventually go into production, as she develops the script, and tries to raise funding for it – a process many of you are intimately familiar with.

Of course, once there are any noteworthy developments on that feature film (and other Rungano projects), we’ll post them here.

In the meantime, 2 things for you to watch; first, a wonderful 2011 profile of Rungano below; and underneath that, watch her award-winning short Mwansa The Great in full:

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