Jan 2010

January 19th, 2010

Pre-Sundance Jitters

PUMZI got into Sundance!!!! What???? How amazing, blessed, exciting! I am still a little overwhelmed. I lie. A lot overwhelmed. In a good way.

So it starts…

Yesterday, I did an interview and the reporter asked if Science Fiction is new to Africa. Mmmmm… yes and no. If you listen to the stories that have been told for generations, elements of fantasy, science fiction have always existed within them. Honest… from cautionary tales of the ogre and the village beauty to the spirit child in Ben Okri’s novels and the fantastical world in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s books. It has been there. I am just a new generation of storyteller, using cinema as my tool. The genre means less to me than the story. PUMZI chose to be Sci-Fi. The story dictated the genre.

Now, I understand that cinema is young in East Africa and a touch older in South Africa but that is not necessarily true for the rest of the continent. Egypt has made films for the last 100 years. I’m sure somewhere in there, a couple, couple films have dealt with fantasy or science fiction. The pyramids themselves are Sci-Fi props, they must be. Another interview I did a while back in South Africa asked why I would chose to do a Sci-Fi film when there were so many other stories to tell. What? How does that make sense? First, the genre does not dictate the story. Second, (I can feel myself getting hot at the memory) who decides the limitations of imagination? What story am I supposed to tell? Is there a formula that I have to follow because I was born in Kenya? Really? Really????? Aurghhhhhhhhhhh…

PUMZI was launched at the Kenya International Film Festival (October 21, 2009). Although well received, the main criticism was that the film was not Kenyan enough (in story, execution, cast and crew). PUMZI was written in Kenya, directed by a Kenyan, funded by Germany, America and Kenya, produced and shot in South Africa with the leading actress from Botswana. It’s African. It’s Pan-African. Like the story. PUMZI is based on a futuristic Africa where borders cease to exist and the people who own the resources control the communities.  Familiar, no? But, should I make the feature, I would shoot in Kenya in the locations that first inspired it. Kenya never ceases to take my breath away. It’s majestic.

In a week I will be in Utah. Today it is 32°C in Mombasa. Next week I will be in -15°C weather. I don’t get jet-lagged. I get temperature-lag.

Kudzani Moswela

January 19th, 2010

I have watched more than my fair share of movies especially sci-fi but I can not compare the script of Pumzi to any movie or story.

Before the Film

I received details that the audition would focus on facial reactions, which was a first for me. I was looking forward to seeing how it goes and what I could learn from it. I arrived at the Audition venue with another casting mentality as usual – be yourself and do what you have to do and listen to their response to you. I introduced myself to Wanuri, who went into explaining the script and the mood of the script to me. I was taken aback by the energy and passion that did this with; it is unusual for me to meet people who wear their creativity as part of themselves and not as a prop. Off course at this point I was a bit concerned:  because this woman was taking time off to explain things in detail TO ME! I was nervous coz she was nice and I did not want to see that look of disappointment once I have auditioned or even during. To make it worse the producer – Amira walked passed to make it worse “oh my gosh you are perfect! Can you Act?” to which I just smiled. After the audition, Wanuri offered to let me read the script as I had expressed my genuine interest in the story and I was sucked into it. I wanted to see how the scenes would be shot, where would it be done, what expressions would be used I wanted to watch the film already! I thought the storyline had beautiful mix of adventure and drama. So I was ecstatic when I was offered the part, I still am….

Location trips

Going to the different locations was supposed to allow me connect with the environment to make it easier to get into character. Asha was ‘born’ during this trip. Asha is not someone new to me but someone I have kept sheltered from the outside world. If I could roughly describe her, I would say she is naïve and lead by the heart.  Allowing myself to be Asha was the trickiest thing I had to do, because I needed to trust that I was safe with the crew (people I did not know until then) and I could just allow myself to feel and react without feeling judged. Asha felt vulnerable to me in the beginning but the need to shelter her quickly wore off all because I worked with the most support people and especially Wanuri, who guided me to just let Asha be.

The shoot

Once I had a hold of my character the action was excitingly amazing from walking in a forest of dead trees, being at the dumping site, mountain climbing I was constantly excited to find out more I could do.  The set always felt like a dream to walk into because it was a new world to explore for Kudzani. The beautiful sets made it easy for Kudzani to fade away and let Asha be in her space. There were moments when Asha would escape me but Wanuri was always able to spot it and remind Kudzani to rest and Asha to play. It was only at the end of the day that Kudzani would surface and try to diarize what ever the brain still remembered and what the body had experienced. Wow is the word I used a lot because words escaped me.  My favorite scene to shoot was the water dream sequence only coz it was the most difficult (yet I managed to find some humor in it) and I have always wanted to do a water scene.

I doubt there could have been a better opportunity for me to be introduced into the world of acting. The emotional journey of Asha left me wondering what else this is about. To work with the talent and skill of the people responsible for making Pumzi:  Wanuri and Simon- the knowledge you two have individually puzzles me – how do you get to have such great ideas? Wanuri – how do you manage to keep such peaceful, positive, welcoming energy around your being?

What Asha’s journey meant to me:

Asha has claimed a bigger part of my life since working on Pumzi, the whole experience pulled me up to let my heart lead me and it does not matter where it goes as long as I do what I believe in. it is from the heart that hope is conceived. I am on my own journey: I know there is life on the “outside”.

There are some people with the strength to dream also others with the strength and courage to look into their dreams. Asha had a dream that did not make sense; her curiosity gives her the courage to explore what dream means. Now, no matter what I dream of, I am curious its origins.

Thank you

Kudzani Moswela

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