“I’m really hoping that [my work] brings a level of understanding that we don’t have for different backgrounds and perspectives. You can try to change the world through activism, but people are not going to listen if it is something they don’t want to hear. If you do it through art, people are allowed to interact with it and are more willing to be uncomfortable with it.”
Manal Murangi is a junior film major and photo minor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her passion for film began in her senior year of high school after watching “Moonlight“ (2016). Murangi, raised by academics, assumed she would follow the same path as her parents. Realizing she could create art while addressing important social issues, Murangi began studying film.
Before Murangi came to UMBC, she was a film student at Emerson College. For a film competition, she created her short drama “Tomorrow.” Credited as the director, she organized an entirely female and LGBTQ+ cast and crew to bring her idea to fruition. “Femme Film Productions” came together with only a week to create their film.
“Tomorrow” explores a day in the life of a couple in a long term relationship. The first shot shows the main character Abby, terrified as she wakes up in a dark room sleeping with someone she does not recognize. The individual is revealed to be her girlfriend of one year, and the audience learns that Abby has been living with amnesia since their relationship began. However, not all is as it seems.
Murangi wanted to create more fun content for the LGBTQ+ community. While she recognizes that there is some lighthearted LBGTQ+ content, she feels that the majority of representation in film is serious. Referring to the films she’s seen before, she said, “It’s like ‘this is an LGBTQ+ film.’ It’s never about a couple that just happens to be gay … The storylines only focus on their gayness.”
Now Murangi is currently working on “Terms and Conditions of Sex: A Short Film” as an Undergraduate Research Award scholar. “Terms and Conditions of Sex” explores a serious conversation between a woman and the man she is interested in. She has a history of abuse and chooses to disclose her story to him, so he can understand how sex works for her. Before shooting, Murangi researched stories and reached out to survivors to make “Terms and Conditions of Sex” more widely relatable.
Working alongside Murangi are the assistant director Kaitlin Landfried, cinematographers Justin Okpara and Carlye Brooks and lead actors in “Terms and Conditions of Sex,” Trinity Eubanks and Dominique Spencer.
In the future, Murangi dreams about owning her own studio. She wants to fund minority-created and international projects as well as create greater accessibility in the film industry. “It’s so hard for up and coming filmmakers to get into the industry … lower-income people don’t have [the same] access to resources.” She is hoping to revamp the film industry in her studio, as “minority stories are the stories that we need.”