British based, Sudanese born documentary film maker Taghreed Elsanhouri began her career in broadcast news and entertainment television.
Her directorial debut ‘All about Darfur’ won the Award of Commendation from the American Anthropological Association in 2006 and the Chair Person’s prize at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) 2005 and was selected at numerous film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival 2005.
Her second film ‘Orphans of Mygoma,’ was commissioned by Al Jazeera International for their ‘Witness’ documentary strand.
Projects in progress include a debut narrative feature screenplay ‘Khartoum Story’ awarded an IIE (Ford Foundation) travel grant and selected for script development at the Berlin Talent Campus 2007. Two further media/ film projects underway in Sudan targeting youth and women will explore the use of video and theatre as research and community participatory tools for development.
Your connection to the British Council?
The British Council was vital to the success of my first independent feature ‘All About Darfur’ - I went to see David Codling, then Director of the British Council Sudan at his office on his first day in the job and the administrative and logistical support the office gave me was key to getting the film completed. When the film got selected at Toronto, the BC’s film dept in London couriered my tapes to the festival. I was still not used to travelling alone. Upon arrival in my hotel room I found a note from Satwant Gill inviting me to lunch the next day; she also took me under her wing at the festival and made Toronto a really productive and fun experience. I was happy to help the BC’s Sudan office when they asked me to film one of their literature projects bringing together writers from the North and South of Sudan, and the diaspora. The film was screened in a few African festivals, including a TV interview for South Africa during which I was able to talk about the importance of the British Council’s work in bringing together writers who would never have otherwise had the opportunity to meet and perhaps, one day, even work together…
Your current project?
It’s a documentary I’ve just finished; the story of unwed mothers in Khartoum titled ‘Mother Unknown’ the film premiered at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in June 2009.
What originally turned you onto film?
I was writing a novel and writer’s block turned me to film.
Career high so far?
Rageh Omaar introducing my film ‘Orphans of Mygoma’ on Al Jazeera International’s Witness strand. Also ‘Mother Unknown’ won the Unicef Child Rights Award at Zanzibar, Danny Glover presented the certificate and when later I gave him a copy of the film, he kissed my hand... bless him.
Your first job in the film industry?
It was at the Middle East Broadcasting centre (MBC) sorting through an inundation of entries for a Ramadan competition.
If I knew then what I know now...
Ever since the age of 6 I think I knew I wanted to tell stories, but if I knew I would tell them through film I would have gone to film school because it has been such a meandering route to where I am now...but then again I’m enjoying the journey.
Your favourite British film?
Andrew Davies’ TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Simon Langton. It’s truly the best of British.
If you could have directed/been in any film ever made, which one would it be?
Jafar Panahi’s The White Balloon. It is like a poem, distilled and perfect and every bit of it is memorable.
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
It was an Arabic film Layalt al Gabd ala Fatima (The Night Fatima Was Captured) with Fatin Hamama - there is a visually stunning image from that film that is forever sealed in my memory, It was the image of a woman by the sea, her hair blowing in the wind as she released birds from a big fisherman’s net that had been turned into a trap for birds.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
Every single scene of Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love because it is so beautiful and tangibly bittersweet and poignant. Also, the dream sequence from Tarkovskys’ The Sacrifice because it captures the startling randomness and mystery of dreams.
Favourite screen kiss?
Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing.... young love across the divides, like Romeo and Juliet but in the 80’s.
Who’s your favourite screen hero/villain?
I idolized Wonder Woman as a child. I loved how she would twirl round and round and become wonder woman in that beautiful costume and lift cars off the pavement... why has no one made a Wonder Woman feature?!
Who would play you in the film about your life?
That gorgeous actress in Abbas Kiarostami’s film Ten. Her name is Mania Akbarie.