Tendai Manuel puts his unique stamp on Ireland’s film industry
2018-07-01 10:02:22 -
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By Princess Pamela Toyin

Tendai Manuel’s childhood in Zimbabwe was marked by the stories his grandmother told by the fire – and now he is taking those storytelling ideas to a much bigger scale.

“From an early age I knew I wanted to be in the film industry,” Tendai says. “My father was a photographer and now looking at it I think I grew an interest from watching him. I remember growing up watching television for hours. 

“My father did not like it and wanted me to focus on books and reading rather than just watching TV. I would narrate what I had watched to my friends, telling them I think I would be suitable for the movies.”

Since moving to Ireland in 2009, Tendai has been true to his word, participating in several major productions, mainly as a background actor. You might see his face in TV hit Vikings, or The Girl from Mogadishu. But he has also been a lead in smaller films, and has acted in and directed his own projects. 

Critics and audiences have taken notice, with Tendai winning best actor at the Limerick Institute of Technology Film Festival in 2011. “God has brought me this far and keeps me going, it is because of His grace I am here today,” he says. But his friends in the Irish film industry have also helped – including the man Tendai cites as his role model, The Young Offenders director Peter Foott.

“When I was acting in The Young Offenders, I had the privilege of talking to [Foott] in person and learning a lot from him. When I had nothing, not even one piece of film equipment, it was a group of Irish people that helped me out. They showed me that you can be whoever you want to be if you just put your mind to it, work hard and believe in yourself.”

Tendai confessed to being a workaholic when it comes to his career in film, but in his case it doesn’t come across as a bad thing. “I love my job, changing it would be like changing my face. It is my identity. It is who I am. I am a storyteller on a bigger scale though I might add other things to my portfolio.”

That’s what his current studies are for. With an advanced certificate in TV and film production from St Johns College Cork, Tendai is now undertaking a BA in TV, radio, and new media at the Institute of Technology Tralee. It’s time well spent learning about film as a business venture, not simply as an art form, he says. “I am working towards being a professional film producer and I want to have my own film production company, Tendyfilms.” 

As far as his career goes, Tendai is honest about the opportunities Ireland has provided over those in his country of origin. “I would have faced a lot of challenges in Zimbabwe in the arts industry but Ireland has helped me reach greater heights,” he says.

That’s not to say every experience in Ireland has been positive. “I have faced racism but sometimes I wouldn’t really blame the people [doing it],” Tendai says. “It’s just a lack of knowledge and ignorance on their part. Like I always say to my Irish friends, it’s hard for the Irish that have never left Ireland to understand other cultures. It just takes them time to accept. We may be different in colour but on the inside we are all the same because we all have the same red blood.” 

Beyond the film world, Tendai enjoys family life with his partner Malaika Christine and their daughters Adelle (6) and Alayna (3). Tendai proposed to Malaika on her birthday last August, and their wedding is coming soon. 

“It will be epic. As a film producer, you know how we do it. It will be memorable.”

- Princess Pamela Toyin is a journalist, author and TV presenter who has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0) 87 417 9640 or email echoesmediainternational@gmail.com
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