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Tug of War



In this adaptation of Adam Shafi’s award-winning Swahili novel, set in 1950s Zanzibar, a romance is buffeted by the harsh waves of British rule and the local militant struggle for liberation. On the shores of the centuries-old trade port in the Indian Ocean’s “Spice Islands” — under British protectorate control and overseen by the Sultan of Oman — Denge, a young Mswahili revolutionary, fights for a free Zanzibar. Slipping past unrelenting colonial police through the tight alleys and crumbling walls of a segregated Stone Town, “De” (Gudrun Columbus Mwanyika) and his comrades import socialist pamphlets and distribute Swahili translations across the island, staging revolts in dance halls and expat clubs to demand political autonomy. De dreams of nothing else until he meets Yasmin (Ikhlas Gafur Vora), a young Indian-Zanzibari woman seeking her own forbidden freedoms who does not expect to be intrigued by De’s mystery. After running away from her arranged marriage, Yasmin is reacquainted with her home through De’s eyes and through her generous friend, Mwajuma (played by Zanzibari musician Siti Amina). Together, the three venture across communities that are separated by arbitrary British racial categories but deeply blended at the level of culture and rhythm.