The many faces of Ntare Mwine

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Old 14-Dec-2010
The many faces of Ntare Mwine

Actor, photographer, artist, director, playwright. Ntare Mwine isn't quite sure which one he'll settle for.

The American, known for his roles in TV dramas ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Heroes and Hollywood film Blood Diamond is in town for an exhibition of his photographic work, called Africa Uploaded - Experiences Through the Lens and to attend the Dubai International Film Festival.

Mwine, who is of Ugandan origin, is one of three artists to showcase works from Africa. "I do everything that challenges me. I'll take on any working style that pushes me creatively. That's always interesting," he says.

Mwine's latest film, 40, will premiere at the ongoing Diff on Saturday.

The actor, who started his career playing the central role in acclaimed play Six Degrees of Separation, almost 20 years ago, plays an illegal immigrant in the stylishly filmed feature by debutante Turkish director Emre Sahin.

Set in modern-day Istanbul, the film is about three very different people whose destinies are intertwined when their lives clash one stormy night.

"It's got a great cast and is made by a wonderful director. I feel very privileged to have been involved with the project," says Mwine. "We've been to the Osaka Film Festival in Japan, Toronto, Palm Springs and the response has been amazing. I hope people in Dubai will like it."

He, will however, not attend the premiere. After walking the red carpet at Diff's opening gala, Mwine went back to New Orleans to film the second season of the critically acclaimed HBO drama, Treme — a series about the residents of the town trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricane Katrina.

Difficult choice

"I am very disappointed. But it's one of the difficult choices I've had to make," he says. "The rest of the cast will be there and I am thrilled our film is showing here in Dubai. It's just one of those things where you have two great options. And with this one, I couldn't avoid and had to make a choice.

"I fly back to my apartment in LA, have literally one night to do laundry and then it's off to New Orleans for a few months," he adds. "I play a Senegalese sous chef in Treme. It's a really interesting project about all these different people who come up against various odds."

From a Sierra Leonian in 2006's Blood Diamond to the mysterious Usutu in the just-concluded, award-winning series Heroes, Mwine says that while it is not a conscious decision, he tends to be cast mostly playing African characters.

"Initially, I used to go in for auditions and talk in my normal accent and was told many times that I was not African enough. They tend to pay more attention when I speak with an accent. I guess they would rather have something they think is authentic," he says.


"Of late I've been doing a lot African roles. It's satisfying. And I'm not actually turning down tonnes of work so I'm not complaining."

Television, he says, is having a resurgence in the US.

"There's been a renaissance of sorts in television and some of the most innovative work is happening in the medium, even better than in the movies. So these are interesting times.

"I wouldn't be able to choose which medium I prefer more though, although they have different working philosophies. For feature films, you might work for a few weeks and then go separate ways. For TV shows, you could work together for years depending on how long the show runs. In film it's one story while in a TV series, each episode is like a mini movie."

While in Dubai, Mwine was also filming his next untitled film, a self produced project he has written and starring in.

"It's like a one man show — about a priest determined to walk the right path and is confronted with the frailties of his humanity," he explains.

"I have shot all over Africa and then wanted to shoot in the desert in Dubai and also the Burj Khalifa. I'll use these shots and images and try to string together a narrative. Let's see how that goes."

Mwine's photographic work has featured in Vanity Fair magazine and exhibited at Blue Sky Gallery, The United Nations, Rush Arts Gallery, the UCLA Fowler Museum, The Latino Art Museum, and has been featured on the HBO television series Six Feet Under. Africa forms the central theme in many of them, some currently showing in Dubai at the Mojo Gallery.

"The pictures for Africa Uploaded were shot all over the continent — from Uganda and Mozambique. I took little time off after we filmed Blood Diamond and these are some of the things I witnessed, which I thought were very powerful and effective."

Unwilling to narrow down a preferred medium, the multi-talented Mwine says he's always up to trying new things and taking up fresh challenges.

"I'd like to be a brain surgeon one day and make a tons of money," he jokes.

"But years down the line, I just see myself working. I'll be 70 or 80 and still shooting."

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