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White Berry

East Coast Premiere

Director: Sia Hermanides

Netherlands, 2022, 90 min

Shooting Format:Digital

Festival Year:2023

Category:Narrative Feature

Cast:Latifa Mwazi, Emmanuel Ohene Boafo, Diane Kagisye, Joyeuse Musabimana, Rebecca Cizmeli, Nyarko Nyamekye, Destiny Adopai

Crew:Writers: Ilse Ott, Sia Hermanides. Producer: Floor Onrust.


Grace (17) fled from Burundi to Rotterdam with her mother and older brother as a five- year-old girl. Grace has albinism, and albino hunters in Burundi hunted for her depigmented skin. Now in her senior year, she must do everything she can to meet her family's expectations. When she meets Kya and her friends, a new world opens up. In Kya and her entourage, Grace sees the embodiment of her African identity, but even more of the person Grace would like to be; powerful, confident and proud. She does everything she can to become part of the group. But how do you do that if your self- image has become so negative due to years of exclusion?

About the director

With her films and series, screenwriter and director Sia Hermanides (1986) wants to create new images and show underexposed stories. After obtaining her Bachelor's degree in Media and Culture (minor Gender Studies, Political Science) at the University of Amsterdam and teaching for a few months in Tanzania, Hermanides graduated cum laude from the Utrecht School of the Arts in 2010 in the direction of screenplay and fiction directing.

In 2016 she wrote and directed the BosBros-produced TV series 'VOETBALMEISJES'. The series was nominated for the Prix Genève and won the Cinekid Kinderkast Jury award. In 2019, she directed the series 'PAPADAG' and the mid-length film 'AFUA', which was praised by the public and press.

For the past two years, Hermanides has written and directed seasons 1 and 2 of the popular martial arts TV series 'NINJA NANNY'. The series was awarded a five-star review in the NRC and has been sold to several countries including Germany, Denmark, Norway, South Korea and Slovenia. The series was also nominated for the Cinekid Kinderkast Jury Award and the prestigious Prix de Jeunesse.

In 2022, Sia will make her debut with her feature film 'WHITE BERRY' about a young woman of African descent with albinism who is looking for her place in the world. The film is produced by Family Affair Films (including NOTHING PERSONAL, LIGHT AS FEATHERS).

Filmmaker's note

Everyone has the need to belong, to know what his or her identity, home or place in the world is. But what if you can't fit in any box?

Grace's albinism has defined her life from an early age. Because of her pale skin, she can never hang with the other children at nearby lake on a sunny day, and because of her poor vision, she is always picked last with sports. She is a striking appearance with her white skin and African features. When she walks down the street, the looks of bystanders pierce her back and she regularly receives comments from complete strangers about her appearance: “Why are you so white / do you look so cross-eyed? Freak!” Over the years, Grace has become increasingly insecure. She always feels like a strange bird when she just wants to be like everyone else.

All over the world, girls like Grace struggle with their identities: too white to fit in with the black community and too black to fit in with the white community. Top model Diandra Forrest used to be bullied a lot because of her deviant appearance and to this day is regularly confronted with the question: who are you? Kenosha Robinson, an albino girl from Jackson (USA) was so eager to prove that she was “black“ that she plastered her face black, started talking more in slang and started listening to rap. Inspired by their experiences and anecdotes, the idea for WHITE BERRY was born.

I believed it to be important that Grace would be played by a girl of African descent who has real albinism. Through social media I came into contact with Latifa Mwazi: a girl with albinism of Congolese descent from The Hague. When I first met her, I knew right away: this is it! It was special to notice how close Latifa was to Grace's character. She has the same looks, age, and issues that she struggles with. Latifa's brother, who joined the first appointment to keep an eye on things, inspired us to create the character Samuel.

The conversations with Latifa, her mother and her brother were very important in the development of the script. Latifa's love of dance is an element that we eagerly embraced, and we incorporated the fact that Latifa's mother fled Congo as a backstory in the script. It was very special to be able to write a script so closely with Latifa and her family. Many personal details have been added to the script and Latifa remained closely involved during the shooting. She even made a music playlist and suggested AlbiX (a German artist of Congolese descent with albinism) for the soundtrack. Her brother Bashir was also a stand-in for her film brother Samuel during the filming. My bond with Latifa and her family has grown ever closer. They fully support the film and believe it is important that this story is told.

In WHITE BERRY I show Grace in all her layering and authenticity. At the same time, her desire to belong is very recognizable and universal. Aren't we all looking for a group to join? A place to come together, touch and embrace each other? With WHITE BERRY I want to bring together and connect viewers of all colors, classes and sexes of the earth, the only place we all belong too.

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