Director: Noaz Deshe | 117 minutes | drama | Actors: Hamisi Bazili, Salum Abdallah, Riziki Ally, James Gayo, Glory Mbayuwayu, John S. Mwakipunda, Tito D. Ntanga, James P. Salala
Going through life as an albino is probably not easy. But what is really difficult is living as an albino in Tanzania. In that African country, superstition and wizardry are an integral part of everyday life. Albinos are unfortunate that many fellow countrymen see them as bearers of magical powers. Their body parts, intended for potions, make a lot of money; about $ 5,000 for an albino heart. But then you first have to cut such a heart out of an albino.
The international co-production “White Shadow” deals with this bleak matter. We meet the albino Alias, a boy who is in danger in his own village because of his precious organs. He is handed over to his uncle Kosmos, an urban toutman with a delivery van. Alias will work for Kosmos, as a trinket seller along the motorway. In the meantime, he becomes charmed by his niece Antoinette, a tiny talker. But then Uncle Kosmos gets into an acute need for money.
The compelling story of “White Shadow” is not served up ready to eat. You have to keep paying close attention. Nothing is explained and you end up in places you have never been, such as a spider casino and a medicine man’s hut. You also sometimes have to determine for yourself what the exact connection is between the different characters and between some actions. That makes “White Shadow” an active viewing experience.
The style of “White Shadow” is a different story. The film looks documentary, with a wobbly handheld camera, rough editing and semi-finished scenes. This documentary style is regularly interrupted for highly artistic visual play. Then we suddenly find ourselves among the clouds or we look at the world upside down. The alienating electronic music also contrasts with the realistic style.
Due to its difficulty, “White Shadow” seems especially suitable for the hardened arthouse visitor. He will also be less shocked by the (sporadic) cracking violence. There are apparently no cheap firearms for sale in Tanzania, so violence quickly involves the better handiwork. Not pleasant to watch, as this whole film does not tell a pleasant story. But this is certainly relevant and stylistically sophisticated cinema.