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Zanzibar International Film Festival – Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Fuga (Brazil) – An animated short about an escaped prison in Egypt 50 BC. As he struggles across the desert he embarks on a journey of a lifetime. If I knew anything about Egyptian mythology, I am guessing I would have understood the symbolism of the things he saw. 7/10

Kaleidoscope (Kenya) – A haunting piece where a woman in a bad relationship ends up in an inescapable room. I did not understand the ending, but the movie was sufficiently haunting. 6/10

Give a Man a Mask and He Will Tell You the Truth (Zimbabwe) – Here is my second 10/10 of the festival. How do you tell the story of men having sex with men, something that is illegal in Zimbabwe? You flip filmmaking upside down and make sure that things are beautifully out of focus, so you can hear the voices when the identities are protected. The filmmaker also used beautiful masks – to represent the mask the men must wear, lest society discover who they are – in a technically outstanding documentary. 10/10

Black Head Cow (Tanzania/UK) – I have to go based on what I saw, not on what the filmmakers said about the film after I saw it…Dealing with the sensitive issue of young women being married off early and not being allowed to go to school, this film did a nice job of setting up the dilemma for the audience to ponder. There were no answers given – and that may be the best way to handle this. 7/10

Cream (South Africa) – This short film about racial identity goes a bit overboard. There is no question the attempted lightening of skin happened. There is no question that people have problems with how police handle race. There is no question that there are messed up families. To accomplish throwing everything together there was a lot of forced pontificating. 5/10

The Secret of Happiness (Rwanda) – There was no ice cream, no elephants, no giraffes and no cats in the movie, so I am not sure it was my secret of happiness. This is another film that looks at questionable traditions, in this case the requirement for young women to stretch their labia to please one’s husband. The topic certainly needs to be discussed, but this film isn’t the best path to that discussion. 6/10

Cheusi Dawa (Tanzania) – This is a weak after school special with bad translations. If only it were as simple to turn your life around as it is in this movie…one sister fails school but after a few months gets her dream job because she is a focused hard studier and the other sister has to choose her career or her man. Coincidentally, her hero is available to talk to her. 4/10

Binti Zanzibar (Tanzania) – Author’s Note: I know at least one person in this film. I have tried to not let that raise my film rating too much. This film was a laugh fest. Dealing with the issue of a young woman missing out on education and being forced to marry (see Black Head Cow above), this movie does it completely wrong. The filmmakers were there and listened to all the laughter (at the movie, not with the movie) – and then tried to talk about how it was a serious subject. Bad ‘B’ movie. 1/10

Thank You for the Rain – (UK/Kenya) – This one was very close to also getting a 10. This movie is about a Kenyan farmer who tries to get his community to take climate change seriously as his village suffers from devastating droughts followed by even worse floods. He then gets the opportunity, as people in Europe hear of what he is doing, to go speak at the Paris Climate Change Conference. The farmer himself films parts of the film and it is very well done. But it could have been a little better. 9/10


Zanzibar International Film Festival – Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alaksha (India) – They say to write what you know…and it appears that as digital cameras become ubiquitous, people write about cameras. In this case, the photographer bought a memory card with a murder video on it and he looks to return the camera to the victim’s family. The movie was okay. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing special about it either. 6/10

As We See It (South Africa) – Rumors about the magical properties of the bodies of people with albinism are still strong in parts of Africa. This movie is about three (unrelated) generations of South Africans who have albinism that have found schools and jobs where they are treated as people with full rights instead of as curiosities. A well-done documentary that can help people understand the values of individuals. 8/10

Guangzhou Dream Factory (USA) – Africans go to Guangzhou, China, to make it big in business. But there are pitfalls and difficulties with obtaining visas and being treated fairly. Although one wants to sympathize with the people in the film, there is an element of “now you know some of the difficulties that foreigners who come to Africa deal with.” 6/10

Keepers of the Game (USA) – We were invited to this film as it was presented in part by the US Embassy in Dar. After the movie, the director spoke and told the audience that the movie was played on ABC primetime recently. And that is exactly what this movie is, a team of Native American teenage girls fight for their right to play the traditionally men’s game of lacrosse and the trials and tribulations of their season. The director took pride in the fact that people thought the story was fictional – everything fell in place too perfectly for me to appreciate the movie. 5/10

Uhuru (UK/Tanzania) – This is the first 10/10 movie of the festival. This movie is a collection of raw and real interviews with people who struggle, either personally, or through a personal connection, with disability in Tanzania. There is no narrator telling you how to feel or explaining what people mean, instead we hear the people speak for themselves. This movie is an excellent showing of the reality of disability. A must-watch. 10/10


Zanzibar Film Festival – Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dent de lleo (Spain) – A young girl blows a dandelion in to the air and dreams about the people and lands that the dandelion sees. A well done peaceful movie that reminds us of the possibilities that we should all dream about. 8/10

Roger (Spain) – This stop-action, claymation, James Bond-influenced movie is fun. Disfigured clay character Roger Bowtie is thrown aside and replaced. After fighting depression, he takes advantage of the workshop where he was thrown and remakes himself. A definite see. 9/10

Indulge Me (Kenya) – He tells us why he was unhappy and how their relationship fell apart. And at the end, we have the necessary surprise ending. It is not the most original, but it does its job well enough. 6/10

Tunu na Kito (Tanzania) – This film has too many problems. The animation rendering was not complete. The sound, instead of sounding like fish under water, sounds like a couple of people in an echo filled hallway. And there were no captions, so I had to go just on action and my small Swahili vocabulary. Incomplete. Please rework and resubmit.

Jeshi la Mashujaa (Tanzania) – This is another Tanzanian animation without captions. From what I can tell a boy doesn’t eat his vegetables and the bacteria attack him…until the fruits and vegetables save him. This is the type of short that would be shown on Saturday morning between violent cartoons to let the network believe that they are educational. 2/10

Edem Saved Me (Ghana) – This paper cut animation of folktale works well. Put in to a difficult situation, one character must retrieve the valuable jewel from far away. As his journey becomes more difficult his best friend arrives with help. If we choose to use television to educate the children, this is how we should be teaching about our culture. 7/10

Purpose (Nigeria) – I think this was a rap video. Or rather a spoken poem set to pictures. I can’t say that I liked it, although there was nothing inherently wrong with it. It just wasn’t for me. 5/10

TIS (France) – A piece of paper gains self-awareness and grows as a “person.” This short was beautifully produced (although the trees got a little scary in places) and is a must see. 9/10

Voice from 10,000 Miles (Australia) – How does one deal with learning that a loved one was killed in a terrorist attack when you are 10,000 miles away? This piece makes you think. 7/10

Free Basics (India) – A rural village gets “modern digital” and the world is a better place…or at least that is the expectation. But it turns out that the online world is full of seedy characters too. A fun take on the “future”. 7/10

Kipawa (USA) – This was an infomercial. And I did not buy, donate, or join. 4/10

A Man’s Story (Canada) – When you are born in a violent household, violence may be all you know. But there comes a time when it must end. 6/10

The Photograph (Tanzania) – The lighting and camera work was very good. The fight sequences lacked authenticity and the story was not completely clear. Having spoken to members of the film crew, I believe that there is great stuff in the future for this local film company. 6/10

Lodgers (Nigeria) – Just because you are highly skilled in your country doesn’t mean that going to work in another country is going to be easy. Although some of the humor is repetitive, there were definitely a few laugh out loud moments. 7/10

Blaxploitation (Italy) – I liked the second half of this movie much better as we hear from a number of Afro-Italian actors that struggle to make it in Italian cinema. I would have liked to have heard from non-minority Italian actors to see how different the experiences and struggles are. 7/10

Keeping the Beat (UK) – I don’t like documentaries where the narrator is a foreigner talking how their three weeks in an exotic location was life changing. There were also enough technical issues to be distracting. But I did learn a few things about the Zanzibar music scene. 4/10

Arts of the Monsoon (USA) – Oman and Zanzibar share a history and this movie explores the fashion, music, architecture, and artwork that ties the two together. A very nice piece with the added benefit of having a few people that we know in it. 8/10


Zanzibar International Film Festival – Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bastien (Brazil) – This is a film that I failed to understand. A seemingly good person is accused of committing a wrong, his little brother is tortured, the grandmother hears voices, and bad things happen. But why? I even ended up watching part of the film a second time, but still I could not connect the dots. 2/10

Nectar (Uganda) – I enjoyed this movie a lot. A man wants to kill his wife and he battles the voice of his conscience to find a fool proof way to do it. The viewer hears his thoughts and see why he hates her. Although I am not condoning killing, this movie is a somewhat whimsical take on the struggles one has when trying to solve a seemingly insolvable problem. And of course, the ending is not fully expected. 9/10

Hair That Moves (South Africa) – This is an after school special type of movie with a young girl who dreams of being like her idol. She believes that the secret is flowing hair. But this showing of the movie had bad sound, bad color, bad saturation, etc…The production distracted so much that nothing else mattered. 2/10

Sacred Waters (Rwanda) – It is great to see a movie that discusses African women’s sexuality, in this case female ejaculation. We heard from one of the filmmakers that the movie was banned in Rwanda for being too graphic (it wasn’t). The movie maker avoided being explicit, but this serves to continue to keep the topic mostly hidden with the movie showing people’s hesitancy to speak openly and embrace the human body. People need to make movies like this that push the boundaries. 7/10

Ishyaka, The Will to Live (Rwanda) – Hutus and Tutsis come together to understand the 1994 genocide that killed over a million people. This movie looks toward the future and wants to encourage people to find it in their hearts to forgive things that happened in the past. But they also want to make sure that people never forget what happened. This film needs to be seen. 9/10

Uprize! (South Africa) – This film looks back to the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Hearing the voices of the people who were there makes this a powerful piece, but many of the people were hard to understand. This film would have benefitted from captions throughout the entire film. 6/10

Yaadikoone (France) –A boy breaks his grandmother’s roof before the rainy season begins. No one has money to fix the roof, but Yaadikoone is named after a Robin Hood figure. Somehow things happen, but once again I am not able to figure how…or why. 2/10


Zanzibar Film Festival – Monday, July 10

Six by Six (South Africa) – Working in an overnight morgue requires a fine blend of seriousness and dark humor. This documentary accomplishes that without overplaying either side. A nice portrayal of real people doing a real job that many could never fathom doing. 8/10

The Last Breath (Uganda) – The premise is nice; a dying mother speaks lasting words in to a balloon for a daughter to listen to after her death. The film has some technical issues but overall it is adequate. It could have been much better, but it also could have been worse. 5/10

Rabidity (Iran) – This movie is about deceit. The obvious deceit that the plot centers around and then a very unexpected pile of deceit in the last ten minutes. Action, love, lies, lies and lies. Overall, I was pleased and am looking forward to seeing more feature length Iranian action dramas. 7/10

Block 5 (South Africa) – A depressing documentary about people without water and the issues they deal with while trying to secure water. However, one can not hold the victims blameless as they continue to make choices that further their own despair. 6/10

The Longest Race (Spain) – A very nice documentary on the empowerment of Kenyan and Ethiopian women through athletics. The movie highlights some of the greatest women runners in the world who have fought against social norms to become economic powerhouses in their communities. The first movie of the festival that we have seen that reminds me of all of the greatness that there is in Africa. 9/10

Wallay (Burkina Faso/Swiss) – This 82 minute movie should have been 32. A European boy does bad and is sent to live in a Burkina Faso village. His attitude towards work and responsibility need to be overcome by learning the value of family. The premise is tried and true, but in this case, the movie just isn’t worth the time. 3/10


Our First Cup Final

Angi and I just got back from our first ever Cup Final.

It was the final match of the Mapinduzi Cup held here in Zanzibar. As you know (right?) Mapinduzi is the Swahili word for Revolution and refers to the Revolution that freed Zanzibar from outside control in 1964. So January 12th here is a little bit like 4th of July in America.

Anyways, the Mapinduzi Cup is the main soccer cup (tournament) played on the island and we were able to go to the championship match this evening.

Also, as you of course know, the game was between Simba (red and black uniforms and horrible font for numbers of the jerseys) vs Azam (blue uniforms).

There are no pictures – for a very good reason.

We went to the game with our good friend Archibold (yes, that is how he spells it), who is a Tanzanian. We parked the car somewhere safe and walked across the street to the stadium. We had VIP tickets (the highest quality seats we could buy – each ticket set us back 10.000 Tanzania Shillings – the equivalent of $4.60). When we got to the stadium, there was a long line for the VIP entrance. Archibold told us to follow him and we went straight to the front of the line. He spoke to a police officer and asked that we be allowed to cut the line. And the officer agreed.

The reason? (and the reason that I did not take any cameras) We skipped the line to ensure that we were safe and that no “funny business” happened. We felt completely safe, but for some reason we stand out in a group of a couple of thousand Tanzanians. I think it may be my shoes.

We sat on seats with no backs, right near midfield, about 5 rows up. And the President of Zanzibar walked right by us – if not for the dozens of police and guards with BIG weapons, I could easily have risked my life and tried to give him a high five. (He didn’t even look at us, so maybe we do not stand out as much as I thought.)

And I could tell you about the game, but I know that you all watched it live on television – but in case you forgot, I will remind you that Azam (the team I was cheering for) beat Simba (the team Angi was cheering for) 1-0.


Angi wanted a special birthday

We went for breakfast at a local place where the owner is our friend and the cook is amazing. She (the cook) brought Angi birthday cake with whipped cream and chocolate sauce for breakfast.

So that was special.

But then as we were walking back from market we got to see something very special.

Someone stole a car in market and tried to race away. But crowds and traffic made that impossible. A police officer with a serious rifle chased after the car on foot as the car struggled to make progress and barely missed hitting dozens of people and many vehicles.

The officer caught up to the car and fired his rifle in to the air twice. The car started to drive off again, so the officer shot the back tire. And still the car tried to continue.

By now there were hundreds of people around the scene so my view became blocked (mob violence is the response to many crimes like this in Tanzania and Angi and I do not need to be involved in that) but we could hear the officer fire four more shots at the car.

Then we saw the driver get pulled out of the car. About half the crowd converged on the car and the other half took off running. So we also hurried away, with a few Tanzanians making sure we had clear passage.

The day is only halfway through, but I am not sure how we will top that one.


I got credit for performing a miracle

Normally I ride a dala dala home from school.

(A dala dala is a passenger van that is used as an inexpensive taxi service. Dala Dalas are packed tight, there is usually little air flow, and the drivers have a reputation for being risk takers, but it only costs me 13 cents for a 20 minute ride).

However, yesterday I gave my midterm exam and thus had about 90 essays to bring home, with each essay being completed in a 16 page booklet. So they were heavy and a bit inconvenient.

I contacted my friend Archibold and asked him to pick me up. He agreed. He had taken his car to get a repair done earlier in the day, so he arrived in a friend’s car.

Archibold got out of the car to greet me and closed the door… With the car running… And the keys locked inside!

So we tried the doors. None opened. We tried the trunk. It was locked. The windows were all rolled up.

So he called the owner of the car to have him bring the extra keys. It turns out the extra keys and the owner’s house keys were in the car. The locked car.

So again we tried the doors. Still locked.

So I start pushing on the door frame of the driver’s door… And all of a sudden it opened!

Archibold immediately gave me credit for performing a miracle.

Does anyone have Pope Francis’ telephone number?


Some kind of record…

2:53pm East African Time Zone on December12…

We heard our first Christmas song of the season. (Jingle Bell Rock).

And now song two at the restaurant is Jingle Bells.. Sleighing and snow, etc.

Just a side note. It is 90 degrees here.


29+ hours…

And it just came back on.

Why am I awake at 2am? Because it is too hot to sleep without a fan.

So now we are plugging in phones and soon I expect we will both be asleep, comfortably.