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Getting candid with Sasha Rainbow-the director of Oscar qualifying 'Kamali'

As Inspire Crew, that is a platform for women of all ages in extreme and outdoor sports in India, we want to talk about Kamali as someone who is changing society and their perspective through skateboarding. When we found out about how big Sasha Rainbow's film project had made it, we had to talk about the whole idea and how it went along with Kamali on ground. Here's more;

So, Sasha tell us about your first intricate memory of getting into film-making.

I fell into film-making because my ex boyfriend was a musician and needed a music video.

That time we had no money, so just found a shopping trolley to use for smooth camera movement, a spotlight and a DSLR camera and filmed it in a small empty room. It was such a success he was signed to Universal records and the next time we made his video I had a proper budget but no idea of what I was doing. I learnt fast, and the rest, they say, is history... What was your first film, and a brief synopsis of it?

My first film was a short documentary called Kofi and Lartey - about one man’s mission to get two small boys off an electronic waste dump and into the world. It follows Abdallah, who grew up in the waste dump, as he teaches Kofi and Lartey to navigate their world through a new lens when he teaches them to use cameras. Here's more on the film, follow the link for Kofi and Lartey Flim!

Still from the documentary called Kofi and Lartey
Still from the documentary called Kofi and Lartey

You also worked as a stylist, art director and photographer. Tell us about one project in art direction and one photograph which you would really like to talk about.

I think my favorite photographic shoot I art directed was one where we celebrated all the different kind of mothers there are in the world. I collaborated with different photographers for each character and we got some really fun results. I think my favorite photographs have been of the Roma (gypsy) community in Romania. The textures and colours of the landscape are very interesting and the culture is so unique.

Art direction for Toyota, start your impossible
Art direction for Toyota, start your impossible

What got you to visit India and how did you cross paths with Kamali?

It all came about when I was in India filming a music video for a British Band ‘Wild Beasts’ song Alpha Female. I had intended to make a documentary about the burgeoning female skate movement in India on the side of the video and was interviewing all the girls involved. I had seen this photo of this little six year old barefoot girl skating down a ramp in this little dress. I knew she had to be in the video. When we finally tracked Kamali down, her and her mum, Suganthi left their village for the first time to come to Bangalore especially for the video. And what inspired you to make a film on Kamali?

We had such a long day shooting and it was night. When Kamali arrived at the skatepark her eyes lit up - she’d never seen such a big skatepark. Her energy was magical; we all came to life again. Kamali and Suganthi stayed with us for the rest of the shoot, so we got to know them well. On the second to last day we interviewed Kamali, who, as you can imagine, had limited rhetoric! Suganthi stepped in. By the end of our conversation, I was in tears. I knew we had to find a way to come back and make a documentary about their relationship and everything Suganthi is trying to do to empower Kamali. It really seemed to represent the massive change happening in India right now, and how it can take one person breaking a cycle to create major positive change all around them.

Tell us about the other kids and the skateboarding scene in Mahabalipuram.

Kamali is the only girl skater in Mahabs. Slowly other little girls are watching her and becoming interested in learning. The community and ramp is small (I’d love to fundraise to build a bigger one) and the kids don’t have access to many boards, so they all share them together, which is also really special.

What do you think about skateboarding as a sport and have you ever tried it?

Because skateboarding is so new, it hasn’t been able to become a male dominated sport, and the younger generation of male skaters are really encouraging and inclusive. I think that’s really important and exciting. When sports are done right it’s about team building and inclusivity. Skating is great because it leaves space for the individual to work at their own pace, in a social environment and I think in particular that is interesting for young girls - not just to be competitive, but to have fun, fall over, and pick themselves back up, dust themselves off, and do it all over again - for pure enjoyment! I started skateboarding when I filmed the Alpha Female music video - so now skateboarding has become a big part of my life. I use it to get around London and it’s very interesting seeing all the reactions to a grown woman cruising the streets on a board!

Your previous project was also in skateboarding, how was it different from Kamali?

One was a music video - it’s more of a document and celebration of a new scene of female skateboarders in India. The documentary is focused on Kamali and her relationship with her mother and breaking the generational cycle for women in her family to break cliche.

Kamali and her mother, still from the film ''Kamali''
Kamali and her mother, still from the film ''Kamali''

What do you want to convey through 'Kamali'.

I hope the film represents the massive change happening in India right now, and how it can take one person breaking a cycle to create major positive change all around them.

The film won at the Atlanta film festival. How did you feel?

It felt great of course! The film has been a labour of love for myself and all the team for the last couple of years so we couldn’t be happier than to receive positive recognition for it!

We really want to get it in front of mothers and children in India as I’m sure Suganthi and Kamali will be positive role models for anyone else going through abuse or oppression because of their gender.

How did the filming process work for Kamali? Did you have everything under control while filming?

(Like sometimes it happens that maybe you could have done things in a way kind of feeling).

It was incredibly hard shooting in a foreign language, with different customs and expectations and managing relationships, schedules, and everything else that goes into making a film. As we were self funded we had limited time. We were in India for just under a month, after several months of preparation. It was frustrating, as life happens, so some events we had planned to shoot as part of the film got shifted. It was going to have wider scope with the community around them, but funny how these things work out. It really got us to focus on the relationship between Kamali and her family, which in the end is a much more personal film.

The crew shooting Kamali's mother.

About your team for Kamali, how closely did you work with the editor and during the post production.

Our team was very small, our editor, David Higgs was in India with us. He was the most involved throughout the process after me. He was my rock. As a director I was very involved from the beginning to the end.

David Higgs & Sasha Rainbow at the ramp with Kamali.

As a filmmaker how do you choose your subjects.

It’s very important for your subjects to choose you, in a way. Somehow it’s about researching everything you’re interested in and seeing what you become obsessed with. For me, electronic waste and the environment and the plight of the Roma (gypsies) has always gripped me, and it’s one of the things I’m working on for my new feature length film.

What elements do you think can help a filmmaker put a story and message across.

Filmmaking takes a lot of time and money. It’s important as an artist to find your truth and speak from the heart. That all that really matters to us in the world and as storytellers is relationships. I think it’s a very exciting time for documentaries now. People more than ever want to connect and learn about each other. This is important medicine for a world that needs a lot of work!

One of the project as an art director
One of the project as an art director

How much time did it take you to get a final export of the Kamali film since?

I think we have been working on the film for about three years all together. Freedom, in relation with liberation from interruption of other people's idea. As a filmmaker,how do you see it?

I didn’t have to worry about this at all because it was an entirely independent production - but I do think it’s important to think who your audience is, who you want to reach. So freedom is all in the question of what the filmmaker wants to achieve - rules and obstacles can often help nurture creativity. So many amazing Russian novels were written under censorship - that’s how satire was created and it was incredible!

Anything which you would really like to discover as a filmmaker.

I am working on a feature film, Only Luck Decides: When Kali, a young Roma girl, is forced to flee from her village into the city, she finds herself leading a fight for justice in the slums,

to prevent her family from ending up on the streets. This time it’s my hope to have a proper production team around me. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve with that kind of support.

What were your thoughts when you found out about Project Wild Women and Inspire crew?

I thought it was so cool. This is the kind of example of what we can achieve when we lift each other and create platforms for our voices and our actions.

All pic courtesy: Sasha Rainbow



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