Hot Docs 2021 Women Directors: Meet Maéva Ranaïvojaona – "Zaho Zay"

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Maéva Ranaïvojaona is a French filmmaker with Malagasy origins, living and working in Paris and Vienna. She wrote, produced, and directed two short films that have been shown and awarded at several festivals, among them the International Film Festival Rotterdam and Cannes Film Festival. "Zaho Zay" is her first feature film and has been awarded...
at FIDMarseille in France and Viennale in Austria. Since 2017, Ranaïvojaona has worked as a screenwriter, filmmaker, and producer at Subobscura Films.

"Zaho Zay" is screening at the 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, which takes place April 29-May 9. The fest is digital this year due to COVID-19. Streaming is geo-blocked to Canada. The film is co-directed by Georg Tiller.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

MR: I like to call my film a documentary tale, or a Malagasy western noir.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

MR: I would say mainly the encounter with my uncle, and the discovery of Madagascar's desertic landscapes. It started in 2017. My uncle was driving me through the island for a series of location scouting for a different film project. I was there with a good camera at hand, technical material, and the person who would become my co-director, Georg Tiller.

From the beginning of the trip, I was fascinated by the silent presence and archetypal cinematic traits my uncle naturally displayed when walking around – actually, doing any gesture. Even when he was waiting – still and in thought, leaning against his car – he would attract a cinephile's eye. I would constantly see in him a silent murderer or an old gangster awaiting some tragedy.

And those ready-made scenes happened in the middle of canyons and magnificent deserts that I was discovering. There was no way around the filming of the protagonist of what would become "Zaho Zay." However, wandering in the wilderness, where the images were so strong and so promising, pushed me to build everything after this first year and complete a film.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

MR: I hope they think of Madagascar as an island they might not have known before and still don't know so much about after watching. I hope "Zaho Zay" piques their curiosity enough for them to take a trip over; or have more awareness of…
Vicki A. Lee
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