Sisanda Henna makes his directorial debut

After a lengthy and successful career as an actor and presenter, Sisanda Henna is changing lanes. The "Tsha Tsha" actor makes his directing debut on tonight’s episode of "Intersexions".

How has the transition from actor to director been?
It was seamless, really. I have always worked well with crews when I was an actor; so going behind the monitor instead of in front of the camera was smooth. It took eight years though. Over the years, in between acting jobs, I was training, learning and experimenting. But I haven’t abandoned acting, and I believe I’ve become a better actor now that I’m directing. The two go well together.

What sparked your interest in directing?
I have always been intrigued by the power of film. There were deep things about myself and my life that I did not understand, but I would get some insight and understanding from watching films or dramas on television.

In my teens I enjoyed framing and capturing stories on camera – playing with a video camera at family gatherings, capturing the peculiar side of the family dynamics and moments. I was always amazed at how immediately those moving images would tell a story and I knew then that I wanted to make films.

Which South African director would you rate as your biggest influence?
Oliver Hermanus, no doubt! His film, Shirley Adams, rocked my boat and his French/European style of photography was so edgy and captivating. I especially love how it assumed that the audience is intelligent and not dumb.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced?
To believe in myself and win over all the nay-saying and doubting voices in my head was my biggest challenge. Once I overcame that, I started to make risky choices, in terms of visual treatment, music, performance, locations, costume and make-up, and editing etc. As a result, the executives of Intersexions were blown away by the work. And boom! I had struck gold, because I finally found “my voice” as a director.

What has been the best advice you’ve received?
“It’s about the people” and the second one, which I got from my scriptwriting and story-editing course I did, was to “tell the truth”. People identify with truth and honesty. It’s not always easy and nice, but it cuts through the mess and touches people. 

Did your wife, Bonnie Henna, ever give you advice, seeing that she is also an actress?
Funny! Because I used to direct her audition tapes while we were in the USA. Her Hollywood agent would send an audition script to her and then I would shoot, direct, edit and send it back to them. Directing her performances was a massive learning curve because I needed to completely allow her to bring her interpretation and then once she tapped into the “truth”, guide her to go to the deepest levels of that truth. So I learnt mostly how to create an atmosphere for artist to blossom, create freely and fly.

What should people expect from your Intersexions episode?
It is an emotional rollercoaster. The story is sad, deeply engaging and heart wrenching. The actors are on fire and offer what I believe is a gripping performance. It’s a movie, in twenty-four minutes, but I wish people could watch it without the commercial breaks. (Laughs)

What do you hope the audience will take away from the episode?
It’s important to accept ourselves and not judge ourselves because God simply loves without judgment. The episode seems to show the opposite trajectory on the surface but that’s just the beauty of art; what lies underneath when you look closely looks beautiful.