OF CHAMELEONS AND GODS
In 1980, Tania, a little white girl from Canada moved to Malawi, a tiny country in the warm heart of Africa, with her brother Numa and parents Carole and Jean-Guy. For the next 5 years, the family lived, worked and grew up in Zomba, Malawi - a beautiful town at the foot of the majestic Zomba Plateau with warm, friendly people. It was a wonderful, magical place to grow up.
But Malawi at this time was also a potentially very dangerous place - under the dictatorial rule of the "Life President" Dr. Kamuzu Banda, Malawi had a strict dress code, censorship and mandatory membership in the one legal political party - the Malawi Congress Party.
As expatriates, or "mzungus," Tania and her family were quite safe, but it was known you had to be careful about what you said and to whom you said it. They became friends with much of the country's elite, including the popular Minister of Education, Dick Matenje. Matenje fell out of favor with the Banda regime and one day was mysteriously involved in a car accident with three other ministers. They all died. Eye witnesses reported seeing the bodies riddled with bullet holes.
After 5 experience packed, life-defining years, the family left Malawi. They went on to Trinidad for a few years, before finally returning to Vancouver, Canada in time for the kids to attend high school.
Tania was blooming into a beautiful, talented young woman, very aware of her multi-cultural upbringing. It defined her - sometimes comforting her, sometimes troubling her as she searched for a sense of identity and "home."
While getting a bachelor's degree in intl' literature and a masters in women's studies, Tania also began getting involved in filmmaking. With the help of the Canadian Film Board, she made several award winning shorts that focused on issues very important to her, such as race, identity and sexuality.
In 1999, Tania finally embraced her true calling as a filmmaker wholeheartedly and began the MFA Film program at the University of Southern California. At USC, her talent, drive and enthusiasm quickly made her stand out as a rising star among stars. Fellow classmates and Professors alike knew that Tania was someone special and they knew she was going places.
In the summer of 2002 while teaching filmmaking in Maui, Tania began work on a feature film script, drawing heavily from her own experience - "OF CHAMELEONS AND GODS" - a coming of age love story of a white girl from Canada who moves to Malawi with her family and finds herself torn between two brothers, both in love with her, but fighting on opposite sides for the future of a nation.
In the fall of 2002, she enlisted the help of Norm, her boyfriend, collaborator and fellow USC film student in the writing of the script. Together, they crafted a beautiful, powerful story that became a finalist for the Sundance Lab. The response was very positive and they were encouraged to keep working on the script and resubmit for the next lab.
So, they got back to work, committed to the story and dedicated to making the movie. Tania, Norm and their dear friend and classmate Wendy spent many an evening discussing the story, the movie and their plans to go to Africa together and make the film. One way or another, they were going to do it. With Tania's drive, it was the closest to a sure thing anyone could hope to get.
Then, unspeakable tragedy struck. On May 31, 2003, less than one week after Tania received her MFA from USC, she was riding her bike near campus when she was struck by a bus and killed instantly.
The world lost a tremendous talent that day. Her family and friends lost a lot more - a daughter, a friend, the love of a lifetime, a collaborator, a role model, an inspiration...
Countless people's lives were shattered that day. Countless dreams destroyed. The world will never see all the potential beauty that Tania could and would have brought into it.
But she is not forgotten. She left so much behind - journals from the age of 9 until her death at 31, all her wonderful short films, countless hours of documentary footage from various phases of her life, her books of ideas and the scripts she intended to make.
And we, Tania's friends and family, are committed to helping Tania live on through her work. We'll do all we can to ensure that and we promise that she'll never be forgotten.
In the summer of 2002, while teaching filmmaking in Maui, Tania and Norm filmed a ceremony in which Wendy and her brother scattered the ashes of their father and other brother in the waters off the coast.
Afterwards, Tania was moved to write an email to her parents, telling them what she'd like done if anything were to ever happen to her. She wanted her ashes scattered in "seven sacred bodies of water" around the world, in special places she'd lived. One of those places was Lake Malawi, and we carried out that part of her wishes last summer.
In the same email, Tania went on to talk about Of Chameleons and Gods, which she was in the middle of writing at the time...
"I've decided that about a year from now I'm going into production on this
film, whether its an independent $1 million dollar deal or a self-financed
$60,000 dollar deal. Crazy, but you gotta set goals.
It's turning into a touching, funny, painful love story full of political
intrigue and coming of age experiences. I think it could be very good."
Now, from the shards of shattered dreams, rising from the ashes of our dear departed Tania, a dream returns - OF CHAMELEONS AND GODS. We are carrying on with the project. We will take the idea that was born in Tania's heart, inspired by her own childhood in Malawi and turn the script that she began into a beautiful, moving motion picture.
We have gone to Malawi, retracing the steps and meeting the people that Tania and her family knew some 25 years ago. We have the knowledge, experience, drive, talent commitment needed to see this monumental undertaking to its completion. And we also have a very special guardian angel.
We want nothing more than to see the name TANIA TREPANIER flickering and shimmering up on the big screen. Up where she belongs.