September 22, 2021

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Amil Shivaji in colonial-era trauma in Toronto selection ‘Tug of War’

3 min read

For the first time in its 46-year history, a Tanzanian film is part of the official selection at the Toronto Film Festival, as Amil Shivaji’s “Bhuta en Kuvute” (Tug of War) prepares to bow its head at a Canadian festival in September. 13.

Colonial-era Zanzibar-based “Tug of War” is the story of a young freedom fighter and fugitive bride, whose romance blossoms against the backdrop of a political coup in the last years of British colonial rule.

The film is produced by Steven Markovitz (Big World Cinema) and Shivji, who co-wrote it with South African director Jenna Bass, who also debuted in her recent feature in the Toronto Platform section, “Malungu Wam” (Good Madam).

Shafi Adam is based on Shafi’s Swahili novel, “Tug of War”, a story that fascinated the director when he first gave him his hand. “I picked it up and couldn’t put it down,” Shivaji said. Diversity. “I realized that this book is so cinematic. It felt like I was watching a movie through Shafi’s writing.

The movie focuses on Denji (Gudrun Columbus Mowanika), a young revolutionary Janjibari freedom fighter, and Yasmin (Ikhlas Gafur Vora), an Indian-Janjibari woman who ran away from a marriage in search of her own freedom. Forbidden love caused a stir between the two, and even as Deng and his comrades-in-arms intensified their resistance, the growing crackdown on ial colonial authority put their entire lives in danger.

Shivaji says “Tog of War” is the first period drama in the history of Tanzanian film industry. It explores a little-known chapter of the archipelago, originally referred to as the “Spice Islands”, with its white sand beaches and UNESCO World Heritage City – one of the top tourist attractions on the continent – an island.

With his second feature, the director says he hoped to go back against that conventional framing. “The history of this whole city takes people completely away from the description of Zanzibar and the people are the biggest part of the culture. It is growing, always changing and very progressive, ”he said. “I just felt it would really help fill the void of history that wasn’t taught in our school.”

The 1950s, when Africans across the continent began a movement for independence, saw a growing bloody struggle for democratic rule in Zanzibar, ending a sultanate backed by British colonial administrators.

“The 15050s were a great time [in Zanzibar]. It was a time when political debate was encouraged, and critical thinking was encouraged, ”said Shivaji. “On an island of 100,000 people, 100 newspapers were published every day in four different languages. It was the center of social and critical thought. But then it broke down for more than a decade.

Shivaji was born in Dar es Salaam but found the roots of his family in Zanzibar, where he often visited as a child. The history of the island has always occupied him. With the help of production designer Emilia Rocks and LLD Dominic Mowanika and costume designer Hawa Ali Issa, “Tug of War” brings a society’s Finn de Sickle character to the brink of a violent disruption, as British administrators drink alcohol and Dean eats social clubs and Echoes through narrow alleys along strictly indiscriminate ethnic lines.

More than half a century after the end of colonial rule and bloody struggle, those divisions remain in place today. “The trauma of that generation still continues, and memory is very difficult for humans to process,” Shivaji said. “I knew a movie would not solve this problem. But it was an opportunity for us in the 50’s to see and realize that we are not really that far away.

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