Prayer for rage, justice and flight

The festival, now in its 11th year, is a showcase of more than 40 recent documentaries dealing with international human rights issues.  

Khanna studied screenwriting at Birkbeck in the United Kingdom more than a decade ago and recently completed a course in screenwriting at the London Film School. She has been head of development at Uhuru Productions for the past nine years and recently produced the company's Alexandra My Alexandra documentary series. She also wrote and produced the hugely successful Mating Game, a 13-part drama series for SABC, in 2011. 

Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born in India. My dad's Indian and my mum's Irish. She was 17 and he was 26; they met in London. She had my brother and got pregnant again a month after giving birth. My dad, who was a student, couldn't cope, so he put her on a ship, pregnant and with a little baby, and she arrived in Delhi in the early 1960s.

There was this little blue-eyed, blonde Irish woman arriving in India with these tiny babies. I was born there and my mum lived there for about five years. I was about two when she went back to England. My dad had got a job in England and so we went back there, where I grew up. They had a fiery marriage and they broke up when I was seven.

How long have you been in South Africa?
I got involved in politics in my teens, in antiracism, and I met my current partner [filmmaker Rehad Desai]. We were both teenagers, we weren't particularly together. I got pregnant. He left [the UK] to come back to South Africa because he comes from a family of exiles, and I brought my son up as a single parent. When my son was 16 years old, he said: "I want to go and get to know my dad." I fought him, got angry with him, but I realised it was important for him to have a father. So he came over and stayed for two years with his dad. During that time, I came over to see how they were doing,  and his dad and I fell in love and got back together. So I have been here for 10 years.

How old is the TriContinental Film festival?
The festival is 11 years old. That seems like quite an old thing, but for me it seems very new at the moment because it is my second year since taking over. I'm the new director. 

This year it's a very feminine festival. The branding is pink. The globe [on the logo], which has been blue, is now pink. This is because I am in a complete rage about gender politics.

When that woman was raped on the bus in India, and people started rioting, I was praying that something would happen here. It didn't happen, there was a muted response–but there is an under-the-surface rage. People are pissed off. And by selecting very inspiring films about women, I'm hoping we can use the space we've got here to talk about some of the stuff that people want to do–the campaigns–about where they are going. 

What's your favourite fiction film, a recent release that you've really enjoyed?
In my normal life I go to the cinema about two or three times a week. In the past few months I haven't been because I have been watching hundreds of films for the festival. I recently watched The Departed again, I loved Pan's Labyrinth. And I can't wait to see Deepa Mehta's adaptation of Midnight's Children.

What's your best restaurant–anywhere in the world?
It must be Diwana's on Drummond Street in London. I'm vegetarian and in Jo'burg I always land up in an Indian restaurant or a Thai restaurant. In Bedfordview, near to where I live, there's Banjaara's.

What's the last great thing you read?
At the moment it's A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd. I'm trying to read everything he ever wrote because I find that he was just all over the place and his books are like my life. If you live long enough, you live many different lives and you wear many different hats and he really captures that in his later novels.

If you're looking for a big release, what do you do?
Actually, I want to fly a plane.


The TriContinental Film Festival takes place at the Bioscope at Arts on Main and at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank in Jo'burg, Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria and at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. It runs until September 29. See "Oppression across continents", Page 12

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