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Twiggy Matiwana: “Today I know that dreams do come true”

The Bicycle Man is a powerful African short film

Twiggy Matiwana (South Africa) won the Silver Poulain and the EU-ACP Prize at the FESPACO

During the FESPACO 2017, the ACP-EU cooperation decided to offer a particular Award, worth €15,000, to the following ACP directors: Alain Gomis for his film "Félicité" (Golden Stallion, Senegal), Ousmane Mbaye for his documentary "Kemtiyu" (prize for best documentary, Burkina Faso) and Twiggy Matiwana for her short film "The Bicycle Man" (Silver Poulain, South Africa)

The aim of the Prize is to help disseminate ACP works awarded by the Festival Jury. The winners will also be invited to participate in a prestigious festival in Europe.

Can you tell me your background (studies and previous films?)

Well I was born and raised in small town called Grahamstown. I have a background in Journalism, Marketing Management and Film studies and etc. When I got to film school 5 years ago, I managed to produce films that got selected to international film festivals such as Encounters Documentary International Film Festival, Zimbabwe and Spain Film Festival.

The theme of the film is the others look on the illness. Where this idea come from?

The idea came from my 3min documentary I directed as a current piece about male breast cancer. After completing the documentary I was hooked on the story and I wanted to do more about the story. The next year, National Film and Video Foundation had a call for young filmmakers to apply for the Youth Filmmaker Project 2015. I begun to write and submitted a one-page synopsis. The rest is history. 

What has been the purpose of the film?

During the process of making the 3min documentary there was question that was always thrown at me by my male case studies exclaiming “How can men have breast cancer, isn’t a woman’s disease? So, my purpose was how human deal with a particular illness and how to cope with it. I really tried to break the social stereotypes and try and create awareness especially when it comes to social issues.

The film is quite optimistic. We can interpret the film with the message that through communication, problems can be solved. Do you agree?

I agree 100 percent. Through knowledge and understanding things can be done better, without accusing or blaming each other.  

Have you been personally confronted to this kind of situation?

When I was 14 years old, I had developed lumps on my one breast, when the doctors decided to do surgery my family declined the offer and said I was too young to have an operation. I didn’t have a say in that. Luckily it was not cancer after all.  So that for me raised a lot of questions later in my life.

How difficult is to realise a film in South Africa?

Look the South Africa Industry is very competitive, there’s shows running and only prominent figures get to be on the first line to receive grants and hype. If you are a first timer, there’s still a long way for you.  I’ve been in the industry since 2006 working as an assistant director, will share my passion and ambition with my fellow filmmakers who later undermine your capabilities because you are a woman. That is the most painful thing no one must ever feel that.

Is it more difficult to be a woman than a man to realise films?

It’s always been difficult, but fortunately for the past 3years things have gradually changed for the better. There are more opportunities created for women in film. I myself am a product of Youth Filmmakers Project of 2015. It’s the most valuable intervention by the National Film and Video Foundation, to provide recent graduates of film school, particularly those from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, with an opportunity to make a film in collaboration with mentor producers Ramadan Suleman, Neville Josie and Prof Bhekizizwe Peterson.  Today I have made a name for myself and I can even work harder to better my career. I have best mentor who know how to teach and make our dreams to make a film a possibility.

What do you think of the EU/ACP prize (subtitle and invitation to Cannes)?

When I heard that I was given a chance to go to Cannes, I was over the moon with excitement. I mean that doesn’t just happen to anyone. I’ve always dreamed of having a conversation with Abderrahmane Sissako, Woody Allen, or Jim Jarmuch walking down the streets of Paris talking about films. Today I know that dreams do come true. 

What are you next projects?

I recently receive a script that I will be directing in May 2017, too thrilled about it.   I’m also working on a feature script, It would be lovely to get writing residency somewhere in Paris or London and just focus on my writing and come up with a great film afterward. 

April 5, 2017
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