'Train of Salt and Sugar' (Hailed as "First Great African Western") Wins Best Film at Inaugural Joburg Film Festival
Photo Credit: The Train of Salt and Sugar
Festivals , Film

'Train of Salt and Sugar' (Hailed as "First Great African Western") Wins Best Film at Inaugural Joburg Film Festival

"The Train of Salt and Sugar"
“The Train of Salt and Sugar”

The latest film by celebrated Brazilian-born, Mozambican director Licínio Azevedo, “Train of Salt and Sugar,” had its African premiere in competition at the inaugural Joburg Film Festival, which ended over the weekend, on November 5th.

The film walked away with the Best Film trophy at the first-year festival, officially earning its way into its history books.

Set in the civil-war-torn northern Mozambique during the late 80’s, the film was hailed by critics as the “first great African Western,” after it premiered in August this year on the 300-square metre screen at the Locarno Film Festival at the Piazza Grande in Switzerland, to a crowd of more than 7000 people. The film won the Independent Italian Critics Award (Boccalini d’Ouro) there for Best Film.

With a script co-written by the director together with Teresa Pereira, adapted from the book of the same name penned by Azevedo, the story unfolds in Mozambique in the midst of civil war. A single train connects Nampula in Mozambique to Malawi. No civilians are allowed and yet hundreds risk their lives through 700km of sabotaged tracks. Salomão and Taiar are two soldiers who don’t get along. Rosa is a young nurse on her way to her first job, and Mariamu, her close friend, only hopes to trade salt for sugar. Amongst bullets and laughter, life goes on and stories unfold as the train advances under attack, ever so slowly, towards the next stop.

“I was in Cuamba, the capital of the province of Niassa in the north, the last train stop before the border to Malawi, its final destination,” says director Azevedo. “The city was isolated from the rest of the country by road. The train’s arrivals got increasingly spaced in time and a large crowd would gather in the station to meet them. I had the chance to see one of the arrivals and see the terrible state of those who disembarked, weeks after starting the journey in which they risked their lives.”

“I was interested in the people that traveled on this train taking salt from the coast to exchange for sugar in Malawi. Then they returned to Mozambique and sold the sugar. This was to support their families. But is was a hellish journey.”

“Train of Salt and Sugar” was filmed in southern Mozambique and stars Matamba Joaquim as Taiar, Melanie de Vales Rafael as Rosa, Thiago Justino as Salomão, António Nipita as Sete Maneiras and Sabina Fonseca as Mariamu.

The film is produced by Ukbar Filmes (Portugal), Ébano Multimédia (Mozambique), Les Films de l’Étranger (France), Panda Filmes (Brazil), and avant-garde South African company Urucu Media with the support of M-Net and M-Net’s Portuguese channel Jango Magic. Internationally the film won production funding awards from Ibermedia, CNC, Fundo Setorial, Euroimages to name a few. Urucu Media previously produced best South African Film Award winner at DIFF, “Necktie Youth” by Sibs Shongwe La-Mer in 2015, and will release, in early 2017, the anticipated feature debut by John Trengove, titled “The Wound,” which won two awards at the Venice Film Festival for work-in-progress.

Although the film is set in a specific period, South African producer Elias Ribeiro, of Urucu Media believes that it tells a story that speaks to many realities of conflict around world, and moves beyond its specific locale. “Its tangible tension, terrifying cruelty, yet inspiring and heart-warming humanness is what will speak to any audience across the world.”

The film will have a limited theatrical release in Johannesburg and Cape Town from the 11th of November for two weeks only.

No word of any upcoming international playdates or pickups.

A trailer for the film can be watched below:

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2023 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.