The Maisha Foundation’s mission is to EMPOWER visionary artists by giving them the tools to tell their stories through film; ENRICH world cinema by bringing new and yet-unheard voices into the global discourse; and ESTABLISH the roots of a self-sustaining film industry in East Africa. All of Maisha’s programs are 100% scholarships.
Our film labs are conducted in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. By placing training squarely in the hands and hearts of those who live in the region, Maisha allows unique voices to be heard on the screen. Our mantra: If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will.
Each of our labs takes place in each of Maisha’s 4 target countries (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania) in conjunction with a partner organization’s cultural event. Maisha has forged long-standing partnerships with the Rwanda Film Festival, the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts, the Kenya International Film Festival, and the Zanzibar International Film Festival. These cultural events provide a backdrop for participants and mentors to network and engage with the local filmmaking community. Maisha plans to continue offering these programs as a vital part of the curriculum.
By placing training squarely in the hands and hearts of those who live in the region, Maisha allows unique voices to be heard on the screen. Our filmmakers learn that instead of being spoken for, they have the power to speak for themselves.
We invite alumni to return to Maisha as mentors for our programs, taking a firm step toward the realization of one of our key missions – the self-sustainability of the East African Film Industry.
Maisha Film Lab was founded in 2004, and has since provided over 550 Scholarships, produced over 50 films, and developed a year-round curriculum encompassing a variety of skill levels. We started out with one lab in 2004, and now, Maisha holds four Screen Writing labs in Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar & Rwanda, one Annual Documentary Lab in Uganda, and One Annual Filmmaking and Technical lab in Uganda followed by the MAFF (The Maisha Annual Film Festival), as well as frequent Master Classes and two Annual Youth Labs.
Our films have been screened at over 20 international film festivals including The Berlin Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, International Rotterdam Film Festival, and Toronto International Film Festival among many others. A number of Maisha alumni have received further funding to actualize their short films into features.
None of this would have been possible without our supporters and partners.
The roots of the Maisha Foundation date back to 1991, when Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair was shooting her second feature film, ‘Mississippi Masala’ in Kampala, Uganda.
During production, Nair was inspired by Uganda’s rich storytelling tradition, but noted a lack in resources that would allow potential filmmakers to express these narratives onscreen.
Encouraged by her own experiences and the support of the international filmmaking community, Nair founded the Maisha Foundation in 2004. The first Maisha Screenwriting lab took place in Kampala in 2005. Since then, more than 500 participants have attended the Maisha labs on full scholarships, having produced over 50 short films that have been screened in multiple international film festivals.