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Meet Denise Khumalo of Mnandi Productions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denise Khumalo.

Denise, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. I have always been creative since I was a little kid, I enjoyed anything that kept me active. My parents told me I had the most creative/interesting stories so they knew I was destined for the arts industry. In high school I gravitated towards sociology and fashion, I genuinely enjoyed being around people and helping them. Style/Fashion came naturally to me as well, I always try to incorporate a good outfit whenever I go to an event.

I moved to America to pursue my film career, I received my BS in Communications: TV and Film at SUNY Fredonia in Upstate New York and proceeded to acquire my MFA in Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.

From my perspective, documentaries are the definition of cinema veritae, I love how organic it is and people allow themselves to be vulnerable. Ever since I have not looked back.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all lol but they give you the best stories and it makes you appreciate all the little things in life. Being an immigrant in America is not easy, the struggle to get a visa and a work permit has been a battle but what is meant for you will be for you and no one can take it away.

Finding your voice and being accepted in the film industry is also tough, there is so much competition but you have to believe in yourself and be consistent. There aren’t a lot of Zimbabwean women directors in the industry, let alone women at all therefore it is difficult to get into certain rooms because you are not a man.

Please tell us about Mnandi Productions.
My Non Profit Production Company is called “Mnandi Productions”. Mnandi is Zulu and it means “nice” and when used as slang “good/fun” and that is how my personality is so I wanted to portray that in the name.

I am an independent filmmaker/director and I make all my films and projects through my company. I am known for my documentaries, the most popular one is called “Khayalami” (My Home) which is a story about an African woman’s struggle to keep her traditions and customs alive while living in an increasingly Western world. This film has graced me with numerous awards and recognition. I shot this documentary back home in Zimbabwe so I could show the world what my country looks like through my eyes.

I am one of a kind because I ensure that my films are light-hearted but still carry a deep message. I make sure to incorporate my Zimbabwean heritage in all my pieces and to show the beauty of diversity.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I am switching gears and going into the acting world. I studied acting for a year at the Los Angeles Performing Arts Centre in Santa Monica and it was the hardest experience I have had in a long time because I am so used to being behind the scenes. It honestly changed my life for the better and I enjoy it. I’ve already booked a national commercial and I now have an agent and manager.

I have also started modeling to show my talent as stylist and that is going great, so you will see more of me on the screens!!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
JD Starling (Pacific Hill Studio) and Anatoliy Goloborodko

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