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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 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.

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.

Over 24 hours without electricity

The power went out Wednesday night and now as of 10 pm Thursday night, it is not yet back on.

Much of the city is without power, but there are spots that do have it.

Coincidentally, the bottom apartment in our building has electricity, but we do not (nor does the apartment right below us).

Apparently a transformer somewhere had issues and they are trying to fix.

We spent the day on a city tour, then I had English club, and then we went for dinner with our friends from the U.S., so we have not been home to need power.

But sleeping last night was very tough, because the temperature was still in the high 70s/low 80s and with no fan and no breeze, we are covered in uncomfortable layers of sweat. (and no electricity means no water pump which means no real showers, but instead a splash of water here and there to try to fake being clean.)

And with no electricity, I can not work on and post photos from the past week.

First quick post about Nairobi

Non-human related: I got a kiss from an elephant, I gave a rhinoceros that used to hate me a massage, which he greatly enjoyed, and I ate some delicious filet Mignon.

Human-related: we are greatly enjoying our time with our friends, the Powers.

Photos (assuming I have any good ones and details about the massage will come soon.)

At the end of the third week of classes…

I learned:

1. There is wireless internet on campus. I discovered this by eavesdropping on what one of my students was doing and saw him connected.

2. Groucho Marx lives, or at least he is being channelled by one of my students. “Everybody uses Zantel [one of the cell phone companies], that’s why it doesn’t work.”

3. There is at least one person in the world who still thinks that television wrestling is real. Or at least he did, until I burst his bubble.


Regarding the election. People are being respectful and purposely not discussing the election. The few people who have said anything have said how disappointing the result is for America and for the whole world.

A few things I learned yesterday

Student M: “I’m glad you are teaching us British English.”

Me: “I don’t think I understand.”

Student M: “British English. You say the word “want” not “wanna” like Americans do.”


Student A: “All Tanzanians are equal.”

Same student a few minutes later: “Well no, she can’t be president. She’s a woman.”