Film-maker Mira Nair haslaunched a film-maker laboratory dedicated to developing and supportingvisionary screenwriters and directors from East Africa and South Asia. CalledMAISHA, the initiative is based on the Sundance Institute model.

The first annual MAISHA labwill focus on screenwriting and is scheduled to take place in Aug 2005 inKampala, Uganda. From Aug 2006, the lab will include select 12 directors andscreenwriters from East Africa, South Asia and their respective diasporacommunities. Alumni from each lab are encouraged to apply for successive labsto further develop their projects.

"MAISHA is born out of mybelief that storytelling can and should cross political and culturalboundaries," Nair said in a statement. "East Africa and South Asia has a richhistory of storytelling, but not on film. If we don't tell our own stories, noone else will." The announcement was made at last week's Zanzibar International Film Festival of the Dhow Countries

MAISHA, which means "zestfor life" in Kiswahili, will attempt to provide new film-makers withprofessional training and production resources to help them hone theirstorytelling skills and articulate their visions.

Nair, whose latest picture VanityFair is expected to premiere at theVenice Film Festival, was recently invited to be a film mentor for the RolexMentor and Protege Arts Intitiative and has chosen Thai writer/director AdityaAssarat as her protege. Other mentors are Jessye Norman, Peter Hall, DavidHockney, Mario Vargas Llosa and Saburo Teshigawara.

Also this year, sheestablished a new Asian production company called International Bhenji Brigadeand plans to announce the first slate of films by Dec this year.

Her other film creditsinclude Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, The Perez Family, Kama Sutra,Monsoon Wedding and HystericalBlindness.