Women filmmakers and directors aren’t common. They are seen as an anomaly in the world of filmmaking that is often assumed to be an art form created predominantly by men. Although we rarely hear of successful women filmmakers, this has never hindered Tumi to pursue her dream of becoming one.
She has an artistic side to her ÔÇô her almost bohemian style, dreadlocks and the manner in which she carries herself. It all resonates the creativity she describes as having always been within her and also, the cultures she experienced while living in different parts of the world.
When Tumi Sejoe first discovered the beauty of motion picture, she never expected it to blossom into a career path. “When I watched The English Patient by the late Anthony Minghella which is undoubtedly one of my favourite films, it made me want to pursue this, it made me passionate about film,” she said. During her adolescent years in a town called Georgia, USA, her photography hobby matured into an interest in film. At the time, she attended Creflo Dollar Ministries and the church had a community based broadcast program of which she volunteered to be part of. She and her team got to be behind the lens, filming quality footage of pastors ministering the Word of God.
“We got to capture a lot of footage, and I learned how to handle a camera from that. This experience is my foundation. Seeing those pastors being so passionate about what they love doing made me want to fulfill my own dream,” said Tumi.
She has lived in the US, UK and Canada ÔÇô something she says gave her different perspectives on life. “Living in different cultures that varied widely from mine made me gain so much insight about myself and I want to share through film,” said the upcoming filmmaker.
Having studied media at the College of Northwest London, which included video production, she refined her skills into professionalism. To date, she has worked in productions such as the No 1 Lady Detective Agency, Morwalela, Get Reel Beeb (BBC), to name a few.
Be it a stroke of luck or fate, she got a chance to work as a third assistant director in No 1 Ladies Detective Agency beside the very man that inspired her to get into the film world, Anthony Minghella. “It was surreal and a fulfilling experience. He was so humble that he even gave me an opportunity to shoot a scene. Even though I kept messing up, I was grateful for that chance. That’s when I knew no dream is ever too big,” she enthused.
Describing filmmaking as something that has become a valuable part of her life, she mentions that her upcoming short film called ‘The Awakened Spirit’, in a way, echoes her own journey to discover who she is.
“The film, which is about a young Motswana woman struggling with self-identity, depicts a story of self-discovery. She has travelled the world and is detached from her culture, but after an old woman asks her ‘o ngwana wa ga mang’, this question stays with her and her journey unravels through that question,” she said. “The film is almost complete and hopefully many Batswana will get to see it,” added Tumi.
When asked if the film industry is fair, she said although it is a male dominated field, she has been fortunate to work with people who don’t treat her badly because of her gender.
She believes filmmakers have a responsibility towards culture, and that storytelling should be a way in which we preserve our culture and also evolve it. “Our generation has better resources to tell the stories we want to tell,” she said. Her advice to other aspiring filmmakers is simply to be great at what they do.