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Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #18: Andrew Berends’ ‘Madina’s Dream’ is a Young Girl’s Take on War

Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #18: Andrew Berends' 'Madina's Dream' is a Young Girl's Take on War

“Madina’s Dream” (the fifth documentary feature from Andrew Berends) takes viewers all the way out to the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. The decades-long civil war between Sudan and South Sudan may have ended back in 2011, but inside the country, the battle still rages on.

Berend’s film follows the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains, who are under a constant barrage of attacks from the Sudanese government (the instruments of war are so commonplace, that the children even mold toy models of RPGs and machine gun-mounted tanks out of clay). This unflinching look at a war-torn group of people focuses on Madina and her fervent dream to return home — if only a pair of ruby slippers could do some magic here.

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

“Madina’s Dream” — an unflinching, poetic glimpse into a forgotten war where refugees and rebels struggle to survive in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

Beyond covering this ongoing conflict, the film points to the futility of war. In war, everybody loses. We should spend more energy taking care of the young and vulnerable, innocent girls like Madina who embody hope and potential. We should spend less energy running round shooting at each other. Thomas Mann wrote, “War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I’m an indie documentary filmmaker based out of Brooklyn. “Madina’s Dream” is my fifth documentary feature. My films aim to cover intimate personal stories within the context of volatile conflicts like the war in Iraq and the oil-conflict in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. Previous films include “The Blood of My Brother” and “Delta Boys.”

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

The biggest challenge making “Madina’s Dream” was access to the rebel-controlled Nuba Mountains and enduring an extended stay there. The Nuba Mountains are ruggedly beautiful and possibly the most remote place I’ve ever been. Access to electricity is scarce. It is incredibly hot, often over 130 degrees. It is also a warzone with frontline fighting and indiscriminate aerial bombardment. I spent five months there, got malaria and lost 25 pounds. Despite these challenges, it was a wonderful place to work, rich in culture and hospitable people willing to share their stories.

What do you want SXSW audience to take away from your film?

I want the SXSW audience to be saddened and outraged by what’s happening in the Nuba Mountains. I want people to be uplifted by the magic of the region, and the spirit and beauty of girls like Madina. I want them to leave the theater with the awareness that the war is continuing with children under threat at this very moment.

Any films inspire you?

A big influence for me while making “Madina’s Dream” was “Beasts of the Southern Wild” — the magic of the score and the spirit of the girl. I thought about it a lot, and it’s part of what ignited my desire to focus on young girls in the context of this conflict.

What’s next?

I do not know what’s next. In the near future, I would love to work as cinematographer on amazing documentaries for other great directors. But if a story grabs me, I’ll be ready to make another film of my own.

What cameras did you shoot on?

I shot “Madina’s Dream” on the Canon C300.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why?

I crowdfunded on Kickstarter. I also received partial funding from some great foundations that do not usually fund films including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Humanity United, Cinema for Peace Foundation. I also received some funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one?

I majored in film at Wesleyan University.

Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. For profiles go HERE.

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