The roots of the Maisha Foundation date back to 1991, when Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair was shooting her second feature film, ‘Mississippi Masala’ in Kampala, Uganda.
During production, Nair was inspired by Uganda’s rich storytelling tradition, but noted a lack in resources that would allow potential filmmakers to express these narratives onscreen.
Encouraged by her own experiences and the support of the international filmmaking community, Nair founded the Maisha Foundation in 2004. The first Maisha Screenwriting lab took place in Kampala in 2005. Since then, more than 500 participants have attended the Maisha labs on full scholarships, having produced over 50 short films that have been screened in multiple international film festivals.
Sometime in September 2011, I got a phone call from Ama Akuamoah - who worked at the Doha Film Institute at the time - asking me if I'd like to go to Uganda and attend a documentary lab. DFI was sponsoring the Maisha Film Labs back then, and they could send some Doha participants to attend. I would have to submit a treatment and go through the selection process, but she thought I had a shot. Oh, and the deadline for submission is tonight.
It was 2 pm when she called me. I went straight to Google search. Let's see what's happening in Uganda that I could make a film about. Also, let's find out what a documentary treatment looks like, because I have never written ( or read) one. Oh, here's an interesting story about how spoken word poetry is all the rage in Kampala. I'm down with that.
Long story short , I sent in my submission and treatment right before the deadline, and a few weeks later, I arrived in Kampala and was taken to the small retreat hotel where the Lab was to start the next day.
Liz Buyondo and Peter Chappell took me to Bayimba - the international arts festival- happening at the Ugandan National Theatre. Little did I know I was to spend A LOT of time filming there in the next 3 years.