interviewBy Carol Moshi
It's not easy for most of us to manage two responsibilities, let alone handling three or more jobs with a tight schedule, but Issa Athumani has managed to be a TV expert, an independent film maker and a lecturer while chasing his other dreams all at once.
Having a master's degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Dar es Salaam and with plans to get his PhD soon, he is now concentrating on film making and his film 'Crush' is expected to give the film lovers a captivating moment.
How did you find yourself where you are today, a lecturer, TV expert and film maker?
When I was in high school I was so passionate about music and that passion grew until I started writing my own lyrics. My brother understood what I wanted and when I completed high school, he helped me get a short course in sound engineering under which I also studied video production.
When I joined the Department of fine and performing arts at UDSM I started to learn about TV Production and film making and while at it I realized I could help people understand more, I got good grades and performed well on practicals and was recruited back to teach- that's how it happened.
Was your brother the only support you had?
No. There are two very significant women in my life who helped me get where I am today. My guardian mother Mwanahawa Nathan who has taken very good care of me as well as my sister Lucy Josephat who introduced me to inspirational books when I was facing the dark side of life, I started reading 'Soaring with an eagle' by Bill Newman and little by little these books changed my life. I have hope and am always optimistic, thanks to the almighty above, the books and my sister for introducing them to me.
How does it feel having to do a lot in a day, is it not too hectic?
Well, it's very hectic but when I decide to go for something that means I can handle it, so my busy schedule is fine by me. If you had to choose to do one thing out of the three what would it be? That would be teaching, making things clear and understandable to someone who has no clue and seeing them happy because they now know what they did not before- that speaks louder than anything else for me. Having come this far, you must have been very determined and hard working.... I was more disciplined than determined because I believe without discipline hard work, determination or dedication would be in vain.
About your carrier as a film maker, what have you done so far?
I'd been a critic and analyst of the emerging trends of Bongo Movies for sometime before I started to make my own movies. In 2008 I worked on two short films 'the blind man's valentine' and 'Quanta' and at the beginning of 2010 'A witch in the crib', need I mention they were for the partial fulfillment of my studies.
You are now working on 'crush' where did its idea come from?
It started as a class assignment back in 2007, I was pursuing a course of writing for screen stage and radio in the department of fine and performing arts and I was experimenting with complexity arrangement of events in movies, that's when I thought about it.
What is it about?
It's about two university students in a romance relationship who provoked each other only to end up trading the story of their broken relationship in a scriptwriting competition as they thought of what they had as simply a crush.
Who are the actors?
Most of them are fresh talents to the industry and they are from the University of Dare s salaam's FPA department and SJMC students including few staff members but I hope to have mainstream actors and actresses such as Mzee Chilo, Sussane Lewis (Natasha), Pipi as well as Teckla Mjata included as well.
When should the fans expect 'crush'?
It will be out around July this year because we are almost done with the shooting but we are still yet to get distributors.
How do you feel after your film is ready?
I usually watch once or twice before I get to the coming project and I feel as if I've got my freedom back because when making a film I feel like I owe it to the society and when they watch it I feel like I have delivered the message which makes me feel at ease.
Ever thought of making comedy films?
Actually 'crush' is a romantic comedy. I love making comedies because they help me deliver serious messages in very funny ways. I'll also consider tragicomedies, heroic and tragedy films in the future.
What impact do you think crush will have on the film industry in Tanzania?
Crush is an experimental film; I am experimenting with the art and commercial values to it. The argument that those who are professionally trained in the field don't do anything to improve films in Tanzania because they haven't made any, I find to be invalid.
Actually my colleagues in the academia and fellow graduates have been making films; it's just that they are not meant for distribution. So I hope what I am experimenting with Crush, will exemplify that it's possible to make films with both artistic and commercial values attached to it. One film maker said film is all about luck and talent.
Do you think there is more to that?
Talent has its place but if you are not trained you miss the fundamentals because training makes you discover and use your talent strategically. Either way, I don't believe in luck, I believe in hard work.
Who inspires you in film art?
Steve Spielberg, he is the master of both the art and commercial of films and is behind many successful films. I also admire Tyler Perry because he got into the industry while being very enthusiastic and he worked very hard to achieve what he is today and people who succeed in this way inspire me the most.
Your book 'changing dynamics in Tanzanian film industry' which was published and is distributed by Lambert Academic Publishers in German do you think it will introduce you to film fans internationally?
I think so. Am working to publish other publications so as to gain international market.
Does Tanzania have more to gain with the digital technology?
Definitely. Both for film makers and film fans because, most of the astonishing images that we see in Hollywood movies now are made possible because of the technology. Hollywood uses 3D tech more because they have exhausted almost all real life inspired narratives but here in Tanzania we still have a lot of stories about real people, history and literatures that we can utilize before we turn to 3D tech.