Chips mayai is a classic Tanzanian street food and also, in my opinion, and underutilised cure for hangover/broken heart/bad week/good week in the rest of the world. It is chips in an omelette, sometimes topped with pili pili or tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes and onions. A good stall will ask you how runny or set you like it. Chips mayai is not to be confused with a Spanish omelette – this European variant is too fancy and too thick to be compared and costs more than $1. Chips mayai never costs more than $1 and that is inclusive of mzungu tax. More importantly, chips mayai can be the source of great ideas, in this case the story for our film. The story spine for the film was hashed out by Leanne and I by the side of the road on the busy Tanga-Dar highway in Mbwewe. We had just finished listening to the stories of lots of women and were trying to work out how we could link them all into a cohesive narrative that was not unrelentingly depressing. And it was over this food of the Tanzanian gods that we got our idea!
I’m not going to give the story away, as you need to see the film. However it hits all the main components I want the film to address based on my academic research – agency, gender and social reproduction, ARV adherence and uptake, self stigma, female burden, state bureaucracy, the importance of functioning health systems, and a big issue in global health that I can’t mention as it will give away the ending – and hits all the main components important to Leanne – visually interesting, original, clear story that viewers will engage with.
Where Leanne and I differ is our inspiration for the style of film. Leanne is drawing from the intensity and style of films such as Two Days, One Night starring Marion Cotillard. I am drawing on the 1990s film Gridlocked starring Tupac Shakur. I fear this exposes my lack of film knowledge and general credibility. I have seen Two Days, One Night and my good friend Carly looks like Marion Cotillard (yes, my friend’s pretty damn beautiful, and clever and has good dancefloor work), but really my frame of reference is the 90s and Tupac. Fortunately Leanne and our awesome collaborator and all round film buff Dusan are ignoring my references to Shakur’s film oeuvre and are more clued up on the merits of the immersive, documentary style aesthetic of film. I am still holding out for a Tupac hologram.