LIANA HASSIM, writer and director
“I believe the future’s very bright for film-making in South Africa. There’s a sense of ‘all hands on deck’ in growing this baby of an industry.”
While most other seven-year-olds were playing with toys, Hassim was exercising her theatrical skills, dragging older family members into the living room to watch her acting out stories she’d written. This was the beginning of her film career.
“There was nothing else in the world I ever wanted to do,” she recalls. “Film-making is innate and natural in me. I once had a dream on my birthday in which my grandfather told me that if I wrote and made movies from my soul, they’d always be successful and relevant. My approach to film-making changed after that dream. I decided I’d only ever write from my heart, being true to the stories I tell.”
Pietermaritzburg-born Hassim describes her directorial style as “whimsical and feminine, with a touch of strange” and says she’s been strongly influenced by film-makers like Pedro Almodovar and Guillermo del Torro, who are renowned for their work in magical and mystical genres.
However, she’s also dipped her toes in different forms of film-making. Her first break into the industry came after graduating, in the form of a
30-minute film called Gracie, which explored societal issues such as violence, rape and xenophobia. It was funded by the KZN Film Commission and the National Film & Video Foundation and won Best Short Film at the Delhi International Film Festival.
The success of the project opened many doors for Hassim. She’s since worked on short films such as Amandiya and Vida and is currently working on her first full-length feature film, El Regreso de la Llorana (“The Return of the Crying Lady”), which is being shot in Honduras, Central America. It’s a Spanish horror movie based on Latin American mythology.
“When the producer contacted me, I jumped at the opportunity. Growing up with a Cuban stepfather and being fluent in Spanish, I’ve long dreamed of making a Spanish film,” she says.
She hopes that her work can serve as an example of the possibilities for women in the industry.
“I believe the future’s very bright for film-making in South Africa. There’s been a movement of film-makers – specifically female ones – coming together. We’re realising that there’s power in numbers and that we don’t have to fight and be competitive. There’s a sense of ‘all hands on deck’ in growing this baby of an industry. We have many new and beautiful stories that the world needs to hear and watch.”