Film Director Speak: Sunu

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Sunu

Excellence as sportsman, a degree in Organisational Psychology and a budding career in banking just wasn’t enough for Zimbabwean-born director Sunu, who chose instead to pursue his dreams of becoming a filmmaker. Since then, he has directed commercials for leading brands including Standard Bank, Vodacom, Nike and Coca Cola, had his short film screen at Cannes, directed his first feature film Pride – which stars Terence Howard and Bernie Mac – and that’s just the start…

What is your background and how has this shaped you as a director? 

I came through sport, then a long stint in front of the camera while at university, and a few years as a banker. Sport taught me teamwork. Working in front of the camera taught me empathy towards actors and the craft of acting, which I use all the time now as a director. Banking also helped, because directing involves a huge amount of fiscal understanding and savvy. You have to know what you can put on screen and where to make sacrifices.

Describe the moment, if there is one, when you knew you wanted to become a director? 

Watching Schindler’s List when I was at university. It rocked my world. 

Where do you find inspiration? 

I read a lot. I love photography and finding interesting people who shoot things outside of my sphere. I love shows like Planet Earth. I am amazed at the stories they tell and how they get all that incredible footage. It inspires a passion for authenticity and capturing life as it happens.

Do you have any local mentors?

Michael Middleton is the reason I am doing what I am doing. I owe a great deal of my career to him, Peter Gird and Janet Sender, who took me on with zero experience and nurtured me when I first started.

Top three favourite directors? Why them? 

  • Steven Spielberg: Schindler’s list, E.T, Jaws, The Color Purple.
  • Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather and Apocalypse Now.
  • Frank Budgen: Guinness Snails and PlayStation Mountain.

Which projects are you currently involved in? 

Trying to get my passion project Riding with Sugar off the ground and a project on rhino poaching.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? 

Getting my film Riding with Sugar off the ground. It’s been a 14-year journey so far.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far? 

One Source, the work I did with Native VML and Khuli Chana for Absolut. And of course doing my first feature film, Pride, with Lionsgate – something a lot of people said was impossible.

If you could produce an African version of a Hollywood classic, what would it be? 

Schindler’s List.

Top three favourite films of all time?

  • Schindler’s List.
  • The Godfather. 
  • Slumdog Millionaire.

What is your dream shoot location? 

Jerusalem, Israel.

If you weren’t a filmmaker, you would be…? 

A music producer!

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