Tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?
My name is Bérénice Hahn, but everyone calls me Berry. Originally from Antananarivo, Madagascar, I work in Cape Town at Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects, known as STEPS, a non-profit media company producing documentaries giving a voice to marginalized and disadvantaged communities in order to inspire social changes.
What are you currently up to? Are there any exciting projects ongoing?
Generation Africa, a curated anthology of thirty personal and political documentary films sharing the lived realities of migration across Anglophone and Francophone regions of Africa, is a Pan-African project in which I am involved as an Assistant Producer for a year now. I am able to work in French with many productions on stories dear to my heart, which is very uplifting. Another STEPS project is the recent Mzansi in the time of Covid-19 engaging diverse audiences in open discussions about the impacts of this virus on South African communities, for which I am both a Producer and an Assistant Producer depending on the films.
What’s your best project/work to date?
Generation Africa brings me a lot of challenges and I love this project for giving an authentic African voice on a critical contemporary issue. Other than this, I am one of the producers of Lindela Under Lockdown (2020, Sihle Hlophe), part of Mzansi in the time of Covid-19, a short documentary film exposing the lack of safety regulations during lockdown and Human Rights violations to which undocumented migrants are subjected at the Lindela Repatriation Centre.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by storytellers such as Christian Boltanski and his photographic installations exploring memory, Ousmane Sembène who returned African stories to African people, Michel Ocelot and Don Bluth and the poetry of their animation, the war reporter Martine Laroche-Joubert, French symbolist poets and cinema auteurs, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac who embody in his clothes a passion for history, childhood and pop Art, Robert Doisneau and his street photography, Anna Karina and her presence on screen.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do?
After work hours I am busy developing Zanatany, as a Producer, which is a feature film about the political tapestry of my home country. I am excited to build this project with two close friends who are also emerging filmmakers (Director Anaïs Vinson, Co-producer Daniel Anderson). Otherwise, learning German is one of my new challenges. And I often watch performative and expository documentaries on Arte and AfriDocs.
Finally, what tips or advice could you give to other documentary creatives, just starting out or to the most experienced creatives needing a bit of encouragement?
Take initiatives and never lose your motivation. Be hungry to learn and to help others to learn. I am thankful for the support of my two mentors, Don Edkins and Tiny Mungwe. Make the film industry a lifestyle. The more you watch (from social media to entertainment), the more you absorb and the more you are able to impart.