Sonal Sehgal’s debut feature as producer ‘Manny’ won four awards at the Miami International Science Fiction Film festival. Outlook caught up with the actress, producer and writer. Talking about what fascinated her to the Sci-Fi Film Sonal says, “Science has always fascinated me. Growing up, I was obsessed with the Star Trek series. Sunday mornings were blocked for Star Trek on Doordarshan.”
“My father is a scientist and we always had a lot of science-related conversations at the dinner table. I had a lot of “what if” questions … And I think that translated to my writing a Sci-Fi novel in 2018 – ‘The Day That Nothing Happened’ and now ‘Manny’ which is a film about AI,” adds Sonal.
Indo-Latvian Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Manny’, directed by Dace Puce and written and produced by Sonal Sehgal (India) swept four awards at the very prestigious Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival which concluded last evening. According to festival director Troy Bernier, ‘Manny’ had the maximum number of nominations and the highest number of awards won by any film. The festival had 120 films in competition from 30 countries.
The film won “Best Sci-Fi Picture Runner Up”, Best Cinematography Award given to Gatis Grinbergs, Best Background Score won by Naresh Kamath and Best Supporting Actor won by Tony Hawkins.
The film is about the journey of an Indian woman who travels to Latvia for a writer’s retreat to work on an autobiographical novel as she struggles with her identity as a closet homosexual. Her life unfolds through three love interests, one real, one a figment of her imagination and the third virtual – man, woman and AI. The plot keeps you on your toes as she gets trapped in a house by one of them and tries to find the courage to confront her true self and escape the hostage situation at the same time.
‘Manny’ has had a great festival run, having been screened at various festivals around the world. It also won “Best Film” at the European Cinematography Awards. The Festival was held online due to the pandemic.
Sonal says, “I never really thought that gender had anything to do with producing a film. I believe “make what you know”. And I love Sci-Fi, so my debut production had to be one. Some investors did question my ability as a woman to produce a Sci-Fi film so I moved on from them. One investor advised me to at least get a male director if I was going to produce this film. I decided to not take his money. 70 per cent of the cast and crew of ‘Manny’ is women. Director Dace Puce, the Latvian producer, line producer, production designer, art director, assistants, costumes, hair, makeup and 3 out of 4 principal characters.”
On Sci-Fi as a genre in India, Sonal says, “I feel a country that produces the maximum number of IT experts and scientists should be producing more Sci-Fi films and series.”
Recollecting her childhood days Sonal says, “The first Indian Sci-Fi film I watched was ‘Mr India’ and I watched it over and over again. And everyone I know has watched that film. So, make a good film and the audience will find you!”
The festival had some eminent people on its panel like David Gerrold, who wrote the original script for Star Trek, Thaddeus Cesari, Strategic Communications Specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and American filmmaker and producer Robert Meyer Burnett.