Swedish director calls for more female representation in movie industry
By Shen Li
02:33

"Martha & Niki", a documentary being featured at the ongoing Nordic Film Festival in Beijing, chronicles the incredible story of dance duo Martha and Niki, and their triumph in the biggest international street dance competition, Juste Debout, in Paris. This was the first time ever that two women became world champions in the Hip Hop category. Tora Mkandawire Martens, director of the documentary, talked to CGTN about her experience of making it and breaking down gender barriers in the cinema industry.

By reaching the top of the hip-hop dance world in 2010, sisters-in-dance, Martha Nabwire and Niki Tsappos found themselves in the challenging position of being the only women in a male-dominated sport.

Their inspiring story has been caught on camera by Swedish director Tora Mkandawire Martens. 

A poster of Martha & Niki. /Danish Cultural Center Photo

A poster of Martha & Niki. /Danish Cultural Center Photo

Martens spent five years following Martha and Niki, and the result is a documentary that pulls back the curtain on two female dance pioneers, revealing a story of strength, hardship, and the importance of staying true to yourself.

She talked about how she became interested in their story in the first place, the dance-duo's amazing skills.

"I saw them dance on a clip of them dancing on the internet, and I was really amazed at their dance. And I get to know that they were two different women that dance together, because first I saw individual clips on the internet. Then I understood there were two, it's always good to have two characters in the film, because it's always interesting with relationships, and I'm interested in relationships. I felt from the beginning that this is interesting, (but) this is gonna be difficult," She shared with CGTN.

Tora Mkandawire Martens, director of "Martha & Niki", talks to CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Tora Mkandawire Martens, director of "Martha & Niki", talks to CGTN. /CGTN Photo

When asked about how she built a relationship and trust with the two of them, Martens revealed that being a female is definitely easier. She said ”It was a long journey and it took a lot of time to build up this relationship to have a lot of trust." 

"I would say trust is very important when you were a documentary director," she said. "Because they could feel that I'm their sister, so it was absolutely easier for me."

Martens was also excited about the increasing female representation in the industry. The voice of female filmmakers was louder than ever at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, with 63 percent of the films presented across the festival's 15 different sections helmed by women.

A still from the documentary of Martha and Niki dancing. /Danish Cultural Center Photo

A still from the documentary of Martha and Niki dancing. /Danish Cultural Center Photo

But there's still a long way to go, Martens gave her point of view on how female filmmakers could really come on top and shine: ”Mentors are very good. People that have been in the business for a long time, that can help us believe in us and believe our ideas, to be stronger. And on the other hand, the financiers, the decision makers, that they can believe in us that they can get insights about equity in equality that is the real thing in life, that men and women are treated different just because they are man and women. "