Meet Hana Mire: the Filmmaker Telling the Story of Somalia’s National Women’s Basketball Team

Part Two of a series of blog posts from Chicken & Egg Pictures’ 2017 Accelerator Lab grantees. This post is an interview with Hana Mire, Chicken & Egg 2017 Accelerator Lab Participant, 2016 Diversity Initiative Fellow, and director of Rajada Dalka/Nation’s Hope.   

Tell us about your film. What stage is it currently in?

The film is about the Somalia women’s national basketball team. We’re following two young girls who were raised in Mogadishu and play for the team as, every day, they receive death threats from the terrorist organization, Al Shabaab, telling them to stop playing. At the same time, we’re following two older generation women who played basketball in Somalia before the civil war, twenty-seven years ago, who are training the girls for the Pan Arab Games.

We’re in production. The ending of the film will be the Pan Arab Games in February. Then we’ll move to the post-production.

How did you discover the female basketball players of Mogadishu and then decide they would be the subjects of your first feature film?

I used to work in a bank as a customer service agent. One day, one of my colleagues, who knew I was Somali, was reading an article. She came to me and said, Hana, you have to check out this story. And I read this story about these older generation players training these young girls in Somalia, and I was so inspired.

I did my research and reached out to the team in Somalia. I emailed them, explained who I was, and told them I was very interested in coming to Somalia to make a film. They were very supportive.

One month later, I came to Somalia with a skeleton-crew to see the girls, meet the coaches, and start the film.

Being a Somali woman who was born and raised in the U.A.E., what has been your experience being in Somalia to film Rajada Dalka?

I wanted to find Somalia through my eyes. I had never been because my parents left Somalia forty years ago and came to the United Arab Emirates.

The stories my mom told me were so different from what the media told me. Growing up in the U.A.E., every time I turned on the TV and people were talking about Somalia, they were showing the poverty and filming the war. I was never turning on the TV and seeing something positive about my country. I wanted to come closer to this culture.  

When I went to Somalia to meet the team and film them, it was eye-opening for me. It was my first time in Somalia, and it was such an inspirational trip. Everything I was seeing, I was seeing for the first time. All the colors—all the beautiful colors that the women would wear! I was so in love with the people, the dances, the clothes, the poetry, the city, the story, and everything! And I felt so welcome. People really opened their doors to me. One day, I was waiting for my driver and people kept coming up to me saying, do you need anything? Do you need a ride? Are you lost?  

I thought, this is something you don’t see. This is not something being shown to anyone. You see in the media that we are aggressive, that we are fighting, that we are dying. That’s all I had ever heard from people—Somali people are dying because they have no water, no access to food. But it’s not the whole country that’s in that position. I’m not denying that there is poverty. Everywhere, there’s poverty. But my film is going to show how these girls live. They’re struggling, how any other person is struggling. Like anyone living in New York City and working and living. Paying their rent, providing, and paying the bills. It’s the same life, I would say. These girls are happy in their home. That’s what I want to show. They don’t have to be in the US! They don’t have to be in Europe to be happy!

The only thing they need is to have security, to have a secure country that can support them.

How can we, as an audience, relate to these women who risk everything to play the sport they love? 

I think the film will inspire people who are going through similar conditions, or any conditions with an obstacle in front of them. You would not expect someone who receives death threats on a daily basis to continue playing basketball!

If someone told me, I’m going to kill you unless you stop making films, I would stop and think about me. We all get to live just one time in this world. We have to achieve what we really want and what we believe in.

And that’s why I relate to these girls. Initially, I had to hide the fact that I was studying filmmaking from my family. Like the girls in Mogadishu had to hide from their families that they were risking their lives playing basketball.

Are they supportive now?

They changed their minds; my whole family changed their minds. Because they saw that I’m very persistent when I find a story that is really important to me and a story that really matters. And this story matters.

They also got pretty encouraged when they found out I had been funded by organizations all the way in the US. They were like, okay, so she’s being supported internationally; this filmmaking thing is real, not just to her. So, they left me with that.

Glad we could help!

United Arab Emirates-based independent Somali filmmaker Hana Mire is the director and producer of the forthcoming documentary and her feature directorial debut, Rajada Dalka. She has taken film production courses at New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi, has directed and produced short documentaries, and in 2013, she won an award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for her mini-doc, Silent Art. Last year, she was a Documentary Intensive Fellow at UnionDocs and a Diversity Fellows Initiative filmmaker.

Post by Morgan Hulquist, Summer 2017 Chicken & Egg Pictures Communications Intern.

Chicken & Egg Pictures Announces 2017 Accelerator Lab Finalists

Lights Camera Uganda, directed by Cathryne Czubek and Hugo Perez

We’re proud to announce our newest cohort of Accelerator Lab participants. Congratulations to all!

The Surrender of Waymond Hall
Directed by Jane Greenberg, US

The Surrender of Waymond Hall tells the redemption story of a young black fugitive on the run for the violent crime he committed a decade ago. With extraordinary access, the film follows Way as he wrestles with the excruciating decision to turn himself in, faces the watershed moment of surrender, and navigates a criminal justice system accused of discriminating against people just like him. His story exposes flaws in our societal institutions and in human nature, unfolding against a backdrop of national debates over the divisive racial impact of our criminal justice policies and the remarkable push to reform them.

The Guardian of Memory
Directed by Marcela Arteaga, MEXICO

The Juarez Valley, a region once known for cotton production, is now nothing more than burned down houses, empty towns, and memories. Carlos Spector, an immigration lawyer born in El Paso, TX, fights to obtain political asylum for Mexicans fleeing from violence. This is the story of Mexican men, women, and children seeking a respite from their tragedies by heading to their neighboring country, the U.S. It is also a story about the kindness and hope that still exists in people who have gone through hell, and about Carlos Spector’s tireless efforts to keep memory alive.

Kids Can Spit
Directed by Chelsi Bullard, US

The feature documentary Kids Can Spit follows three New York City teenagers over the school year as they gear up to compete against one another at the Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching, and Learning Science), a science-themed rap competition. The competition’s creator, Professor Chris Emdin, believes hip-hop is uniquely suited to teach science. For students Mannix, Genesis, and Jason, this battle is a way to beat society’s odds while carving their identities and finding their voices. Pressure mounts on Chris to prove his innovative curriculum does what traditional science classes have failed to do: engage disenfranchised Black and Latinx youth to become proficient in science through rap.

The Surf Girls of Cox’s Bazar
Directed by Elizabeth D. Costa, BANGLADESH

Jahanara, Rifa, and Ayesha live in one of the poorest slums near the beaches of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. From a young age, the girls are sent to work in order to supplement the family income, and social norms dictate that they will be married when they turn 14 or 15 years old. The girls discover a newfound freedom in a surf club and find out they have the skills and talent to win competitions. This spurs their ambitions and they dream of becoming the first international female surfers of Bangladesh.

The Rashomon Effect
Directed by Lyric R. Cabral, US

What happened when unarmed Black teen Michael Brown was fatally shot by White police officer Darren Wilson?

Born in China
Directed by Nanfu Wang and Lynn Zhang, CHINA

How much control does a person have over their own life? In China, state control begins before a child is even born.

Unaccompanied Children
Directed by Alexandra Codina, US

Unaccompanied Children reveals America’s invisible refugee crisis through the eyes of one family that defies a broken system with their unwavering resilience.  Deep in the everyday life of the loving and optimistic Gonzalez family, the horrific violence of gang-ridden Honduras and the encroaching threat of draconian US enforcement are almost forgotten.  The film goes beyond the traditional immigration narrative to a nuanced, intimate story which implicates us all in how we care for the most vulnerable.

Lights Camera Uganda [working title]
Directed by Cathryne Czubek and Hugo Perez, US

Against all odds, former bricklayer and teacher Isaac Nabwana has turned his small home in the slums of Uganda’s capital city into the Wakaliwood action movie studio. After 10 years and 40+ films, Wakaliwood has become an overnight international media sensation, inspiring others around the world to follow in his footsteps. When New York film nerd Alan Hofmanis shows up on his doorstep one day, everything is bound to change.

Rajada Dalka/Nation’s Hope
Directed by Hana Mire, SOMALIA

Somalia’s newly revived Women’s Basketball team seeks to inspire their nation as they overcome immense challenges in their first season since the outbreak of war in 1991. To continue to play the game they love, the team must defy both religious leaders and violent militant groups that believe that their sporting ambitions are un-Islamic. They must also battle against the sexism faced by women in sports across the world.

People I Know
Directed by Zofia Pregowska, POLAND

People I Know is a tragicomedy vérité about a young married couple living in an old trailer. Prone to nervous breakdowns, Michael is unable to stand consumer society and becomes a street musician. His wife Nathalie is an oncology nurse. One day, Nathalie discovers that she wants to own a house so much that she’s ready to take on a lifelong loan.

Note: Since the time of the original publication of this post, some film descriptions have been edited upon filmmakers’ requests.

Nine Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees recognized with Sundance Documentary Fund grants

Nine Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees have been recognized with grants through the Sundance Documentary Fund. On Monday, October 31, the Sundance Institute announced the awarding of over $1 million in grants through this program.

Chicken & Egg Pictures congratulates our grantees, and looks forward to celebrating their continued success.

Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees awarded Sundance Production Grants: 

Even When I Fall
Directed by Kate McLarnon & Sky Neal
Even When I Fall is the story of three remarkable young Nepali women, all survivors of human trafficking into corrupt big top circuses across India. Facing forgotten families and uncertain futures, the story begins in the often-overlooked aftermath of a childhood spent in captivity and forced labor. But these tough young women were inadvertently left with a secret weapon by their captors – their breathtaking skills as circus artists.

Even When I Fall
Even When I Fall

Obstinate
Directed by Sahra Mosawi
In Afghanistan where systematic abuses of girls rarely come to light, and seeking justice can be deadly, one young woman says “Enough.” Her name is Khatera and this is her incredible story of love, hope, bravery, forgiveness and truth. It is also one of horrific abuse. Khatera was brutally raped by her father since the age of nine. Today she is twenty-three and raising two precious and precocious children—a daughter and a son—whom he sired.

Obstinate
Obstinate

Survivors
Directed by Arthur Pratt, Anna Fitch, Banker White, and Barmmy Boy
Through the eyes of Sierra Leonean filmmakers, Survivors presents a portrait of their country during the Ebola outbreak, exposing the complexity of the epidemic and the socio-political turmoil that lies in its wake. The film chronicles the remarkable stories of Sierra Leonean heroes during what is now widely regarded as the most acute public health crisis of the modern era.

Survivors
Survivors

Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees awarded Sundance Post-Production Grants:

32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide
Directed by Hope Litoff
A reflection on the life and suicide of Ruth Litoff, a successful artist, a pathological liar, and the filmmaker’s sister. By looking back on Ruth’s incredible highs and lows, bursts of creative genius, depression, secrets, and lies, a vivid portrait will emerge of the brilliant woman the filmmaker is not sure she ever really knew. This is her attempt to understand what happened.

32 Pills: My Sister's Suicide
32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide

Fly Away
Directed by Lucy Cohen
Fly Away is a film about memory, identity, and growing up told through the eyes of seven siblings and their mother. Five of the children are on the autistic spectrum and as they move through adolescence, an event of the past keeps drawing them back. Combining observational footage with a rich archive of home movies and songs, the film is both a detective story and coming-of-age tale, exploring universal themes of memory, family, and love.

Fly Away
Fly Away

Mudflow
Directed by Cynthia Wade & Sasha Friedlander
Mudflow is the story of a huge, toxic mudflow in Indonesia widely believed to be caused by shoddy drilling practices. The mud volcano has been erupting violently for the past eight years, burying 17 villages and permanently displacing 60,000 people. Mudflow follows ordinary Indonesians seeking justice for this disaster during a national election where one presidential candidate has promised restitution and the other has not.

Mudflow
Mudflow

United Skates
Directed by Dyana Winkler & Tina Brown
United Skates follows an underground subculture growing inside our country’s last standing roller rinks. Fusing hip-hop with the speed of old school quad roller skates, this film shines a fresh light on the recurring pattern of racial struggle faced by African American artists, as it follows the next artistic movement still undiscovered by the American mainstream.

United Skates
United Skates

Whose Streets?
Directed by Sabaah Jordan & Damon Davis

A first-hand look at how the murder of one teenage boy became the last straw for a community under siege. Whose Streets? is a story of love, loss, conflict, and ambition; the journey of everyday people turned freedom fighters, whose lives intertwined with a burgeoning national movement for black liberation. This is a film for all of America – it provides insight into the unseen reality of racism, the role of media in conflict, state-sanctioned violence, and militarized policing – but at its core it is Ferguson’s story, it is our cry of “enough is enough”.

Whose Streets?
Whose Streets?

Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees chosen for the Art of Nonfiction Fellowship:

Kirsten Johnson
Kirsten Johnson works as a director and a cinematographer. Her most recent work as a cinematographer appears in Citizenfour, Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs Gravity, and The Wound and the Gift. Her work was featured in Academy Award®-nominated The Invisible War. She shared the 2010 Sundance Documentary Competition Cinematography Award with Laura Poitras for The Oath. She shot the Tribeca Film Festival 2008 Documentary winner, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Her cinematography is featured in Farenheit 9/11, Academy Award®-nominated Asylum, Emmy®-winning Ladies First, and Sundance premiere documentaries, A Place at the Table, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, American Standoff, and Derrida. Deadline, (co-directed with Katy Chevigny), premiered at Sundance in 2004, was broadcast on primetime NBC, and won the Thurgood Marshall Award.

Kirsten received the Chicken & Egg Pictures Celebration Award, supported by the Ravenal Foundation, in 2014.

Kirsten Johnson
Kirsten Johnson

Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees chosen for the inaugural Bertha Foundation Fellowship:

Obstinate
Directed by Sahra Mosawi

Submissions for the 2017 Accelerator Lab will open on October 11, 2016

Chicken & Egg Pictures will begin accepting submissions for the Accelerator Lab for first and second-time filmmakers on Monday, October 11. There is one deadline for the 2016 Open Call: Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 5:00 PM EST. The application fee is $35.

Our inaugural Accelerator Lab cohort attending the 2016 Sheffield Doc/Fest for their second creative retreat
Our inaugural Accelerator Lab cohort attending the 2016 Sheffield Doc/Fest for their second creative retreat

The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women non-fiction directors who are first and second-time filmmakers. This program brings together ten projects helmed by first or second-time directors, with a special focus on underrepresented voices.

Each participant will receive a two-part grant for the production of a film, to be developed over the course of a 12-month program. All ten participants will come together at various points over the course of a year for an intensive period of mentorship and workshops with industry experts, creatively fusing the art and craft of filmmaking with best practices and peer-to-peer support.

Accelerator Lab grantee Kathy Huang (A Guangzhou Love Sotry) in action (photo by Eric Jenkins-Sahlin)
Accelerator Lab grantee Kathy Huang (A Guangzhou Love Sotry) in action (photo by Eric Jenkins-Sahlin)

To read more about the program and the application guidelines and criteria, as well as our Frequently Asked Questions, visit our Programs page. The 2016 application questions are available for download as a Word document here.

Chicken & Egg Pictures announces 2015 Open Call for submissions

We are excited to announce the Chicken & Egg  Pictures 2015 Open Call. Since 2005, Chicken & Egg Pictures has awarded almost $4 million in grants and 5,200 hours of mentorship to over 180 films. We are interested in films that tackle human rights, social justice, and environmental issues in a nuanced, original, and compelling way. We look for new voices, powerful stories, and filmmakers who are committed to working in tandem with social movements.

This year’s Open Call marks the launch of a new program: Chicken & Egg Pictures’ Accelerator Lab for first and second-time filmmakers. To determine your eligibility to apply, please see our Guidelines & Criteria, as well as our Frequently Asked Questions. The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting a diverse group of women nonfiction directors who are first and second-time filmmakers, with the aim of helping them break into the documentary film world, keep on track within the industry’s pipeline, build toward sustainable and successful careers, and tell the most powerful and impactful stories they can. These priorities apply to this 2015 Open Call only.

Applications will be accepted beginning Monday, May 11, 2015. There is one deadline for the 2015 Open Call: Tuesday, June 10, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT. The application fee is $35. All applicants will be notified by late November 2015.

Please share the news of our open call with your friends and colleagues. If you are a woman first or second-time filmmaker, we encourage you to apply. Follow us via our newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter for information on forthcoming additional programs and their specific priorities and deadlines.