Terra Sonâmbula (Sleepwalking Land) (2007)
Director: Teresa Prata.
Starring: Nick Lauro Teresa (Muidinga), Aladino Jasse (Tuahir), Ernesto Lemos Macuacua (Siqueleto), Filimone Meigos (Joseldo Bastante), Tânia Adelino (Filomeninha), Erónia Malate (Mulher na Estação), Alan Cristina Salazar (Bebé na Estação), Gildo Arão Balate (Líder do Bando).
In Portuguese, with English subtitles.
a boy makes a journey to find his own family in the turmoil of the Mozambican Civil War
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
A young boy named Muidinga and a man he calls "Uncle" Tuahir are walking along a dirt road. They see some boy soldiers coming toward them. They hide from the boys. After they pass, the Tuahir and Muidinga continue their journey. On their walk they find a burned-out bus. Uncle says they will stay inside the bus. The boy says the bus is not safe enough. It's all in the open area by the road. Muidinga wants to hide in the bush. Uncle says they can watch whose on the road from the bus. The boy is very frustrated that Tuahir can't see that the bus is too dangerous for them to be in.
To make matters worse there are quite a few burned corpses still sitting in the bus. The boy is disgusted at the sight, but uncle says that the fire has purified the dead bodies. Muidinga, however, has no choice but to stay on the bus, since Tuahir insists on remaining on the bus. He tells the boy that he hasn't had a rest since they left the refugee camp. The boy asks Tuahir to move the bodies off the bus, because: "I've lived among them [the dead] for far too long." So they remove the bodies. They also find a not burned body of a young man in the grass outside the bus. They bury the dead.
Inside the bus they open the unburned suitcase belonging to the dead man found outside in the grass. They find some food, a ball and several notebooks. Tuahir wants Muidinga to eat with him now and to stop thinking about his parents, who don't even want to know if he is even alive. Muidinga asks him why would he say such a thing to him? Because, says Tuahir, in war children are just a burden.
At night by the fire Muidinga reads the notebooks. It's a war diary of sorts.
Flashback. The author is a black man named Kindzu. He says at first the war was very far away and didn't effect them. But with time it kept getting closer and closer so that he and his fellow fishermen started to become afraid. He saw how things had really changed with the war ever since his mother put his youngest brother into the chicken-coop. She thinks by doing this, he will come to resemble a chicken and the gangs won't grab him. Her other children tell her that it's not right to treat Junhito like this, but Junhito still sits in the cage. .
Kindzu goes into a general store to talk to the owner, Surendra Assma and his wife, who are Indians from India. The young fellow tells the store owner that his mother is losing her mind. Surendra says it must be the war causing this. Surendra sees a man shop-lifting and he and Kindzu push the man out of the shop. Surendra calls the man a "half-caste". He then tells Kindzu that he only likes men who are without race like Kindzu.
Back to the present. Tuahir and Muidinga wake up early and have some breakfast. They they go out searching for something more to eat. Suddenly, Muidinga runs off trail despite Tuahir telling him not to. Muidinga grabs a small goat and bring it over to Tuahir, who pushes Muidinga down in the grass asking him if he has forgotten about the mines? The boy says he won't do it again. Tuahir says they will eat the goat, but Muidinga says no. They put some rope around the neck of the goat and have it come with them.
Tuahir saw Muidinga for the first time in the refugee camp, so he knows nothing about the boy's parents. The boy wants to know who he is and who are his parents, but Tuahir can't help him with that. In fact, Tuahir insists that the boy forget all about his past. He wants him to act: "As if you were born just then [at the refugee center]." And now he tells him that he is not his uncle, but his father.
Muidinga continues to read the notebooks by the fire. Tuahir asks him: "Why would you want to read such a sad story?" He says this, but then he always asks the boy to read aloud to him.
Flashback. The journal tells how the bandits robbed Surendra's store. No one felt any sympathy for him, because they saw him as just a foreigner, not worthy of sympathy. But Kindzu begs Surendra not to leave. He says this is Surendra's land too. But Surendra does not feel that way. And he tells Kindzu that the young man's obligation is to his family. He just can't runaway. They hug. Surendra gets in his jeep and drives away. Kindzu goes back home but finds all his family members dead. He cries over the body of his younger brother.
Back to the present. Muidinga starts crying over what he reads in the journal. Tuahir tells him to stop that crying, but the boy says: "Perhaps the same thing happened to my whole family." He also cries because he doesn't think they will ever get out of their terrible situation.
Tuahir and Muidinga start walking again in the morning. Muidinga takes his goat, Mody Dick, with him. They come across an abandoned hut. The boy picks up a root from the ground, but Tuahir tells him not to eat it. The mice only eat sour yam roots. Because the boy had eaten such a root before, he got a disease called mantakassa that left him limp and without any memory. Muidinga asks Tuahir to tell him how he first found him? Tuahir says that he was one of six bodies he was to bury at the camp. One of the boys was still alive and that was Muidinga himself. The other refugees said the boy wasn't worth saving, so Tuahir had to tell them that the boy is his nephew. He gave the boy the name Muidinga after his own son who lives in South Africa.
Flashback. Kindzu leaves all the fighting and sorrow behind him and sets off in his fishing boat for some place far away from the fighting. Then one night while he is asleep his boat rams into a huge ship. He cries out for somebody to help him. A black woman comes out and asks him what he wants? He lies and tells her that he is a sailor. So she lowers the rope ladder down to him. He climbs up and she feeds him. She then asks him what on earth was he doing out in the middle of the sea? He replies: "I'm looking for a place where there's no war." He asks her name. It's Farida. She tells Kindzu that she found the ship stranded. The fishermen came aboard and looted everything they could carry. Their boats were so full that they had no room in any of the boats for her. They left her behind. She says she actually felt relieved when they left her behind. She wanted some peace and quiet. Now, she says, she is waiting for the owners of the boat to show up. Then they will fix up the ship and she can go with them.
Back to the present. The two guys find a tree filled with fruit. They go over and start picking the fruit, but step into a booby trap. There is a big hole in the ground. The guys are caught in a net hanging inside the big hole.
A crazy native comes along and pulls them out of the hole, but refuses to take the netting off them. He says he is going to plant the two of them like a tree from which each blossom will come a different human being. He uses a wheel barrow to take them to his abandoned village. He says he was the only one who didn't want to flee the village. His name is Siqueleto. He starts smoking a home-made cigarette. He throws it down to go get the hoe to bury the two captives. The two tip the wheel barrow over to one side and they land near the cigarette. They use it to burn their way out of the netting. When they are free, they start running. Siqueleto arrives too late to catch up with them. The guys walk back to their bus and find the goat there eating greenery.
Flashback. Kindzu finds some clothes in the ship. He puts a fancy white suit coat on. He then has Farida try on a niece red dress. She puts it on over her clothes. He says she looks beautiful. He starts grabbing for her. At first she pulls back a little, but soon they are both hugging. He tells her that they will go away tomorrow, but she says she can't leave. She tells him that when they finally turn on the lighthouse lights, her son will be able to come to her. Her son's name is Gaspar and she had to leave him behind in a mission. Kindzu asks her why she left her son behind? She says her mother died when she was young. She grew up in Matimati in the house of Romao Pinto, who owned a large cotton plantation. She says his wife Virginia always treated her as if she was her own child. Virginia taught her how to sew and read. But one day Farida got pregnant. She starts crying. She says she couldn't bring herself to tell Virginia about the pregnancy so she had to leave Virginia's house. From there she went to Aunt Euzinha's house in Xiquingula.
When her son was born, she couldn't bring herself to love him. And now the boy is twelve years old. She keeps wondering where her boy is now. She went to the mission to look for him, but he wasn't there. Gaspar had run away. It was then that she decided to leave Mozambique.
Back to the present. Muidinga says he is going to the sea to find Farida and ask her if she is his mother. Tuahir tells him that he forbids him from ever again thinking about his parents. He tells Muidinga that his parents are dead, killed by the bandits. But Muidinga wants to find out for sure. He packs his stuff, takes his goat and starts walking to the sea. When he looks behind him, he see Tuahir following him. Soon they meet a man coming toward them. He gives the two guys two coconuts in return for a bottle of water. He pulls along his daughter who is tied to an oil drum. He says he is teaching his daughter to be flexible so one day she can be famous as a performer.
The two guys stop to eat their coconuts and drink coconut milk. The goat walks away from the guys and steps on a mine and is no more. Muidinga blames himself for not holding onto the small rope around the goat's neck.
Flashback. Kindzu says he has a new zest for life because of his love for Farida. She rescued him from a painful life, so he feels he has to save her. He goes to her and tells her that he fixed his boat. So now they can go ashore and look for her son. Farida is touched by his concern for her and her son. They start to make love. (A second of nudity.) Later she tells Kindzu that she has to stay on the boat. It is her nest, her safe place. She doesn't want to be on the land. So Kindzu says he will go to the land and find her son. He will bring the boy Gaspar back to her. She promises to wait for him.
On shore people ask Kindzu if he saw the ship? He says he didn't see it. A man explains that they are waiting for aid. He runs into a friend of his who takes him to the home of Surendra. The man looks beaten up by the world. He has lost both his legs below the knees. He says to Kindzu that he left for nothing because his wife soon died of grief. Kindzu cries and tells Surendra that he lost his entire family.
Back to the present. Muidinga and Tuahir think it's going to rain, so they run over to the cabin remains of a huge piece of farming machinery that provides some cover for them. Tuahir gives him some bad advice saying don't fall in love, but use a whore for sex and then you will never get hurt emotionally. He thought he had a good woman, but she left him for another man. He says his father used to take him where he could have girls for sex.
And now comes a disturbing scene. Tuahir says he can't take Muidinga to get the girls, but he can help him jerk off. So he zips down the boy's pants and starts, while he tells the boy to think of girls. Muidinga tells him that he can't do it like this. After awhile, Muidinga starts laughing but he never has a climax. After the rain stops, they dance and sing and have some fun.
The fellows continue their journey that brings them right back to the old, burned-out bus. Muidinga accuses Tuahir of deliberately walking him in a circle, because Tuahir is afraid that if he finds Farida, the woman will shoo Tuahir away and have Muidinga all to herself. Tuahir vehemently denies this. He says they just took a wrong turn. Muidinga goes over to the side of the road, sits down and starts crying. Tuahir grabs the suitcases, gets Muidinga up and they start walking again. They find some train tracks and start walking on them.
They meet a woman with her baby, but she doesn't know the way to the beach. She only thinks that it is not that far away.
Flashback. Kindzu tells his friend and Surendra about how he met Farida. He then asks about the old cotton plantation. They tell Kindzu that the blacks killed the plantation owner, but his wife still lives at the plantation. So Kindzu travels to the plantation. He knocks on the door, but there is no answer. He then looks around the house and finds a huge window door that is open. He comes into the living room and looks around. He finds the woman upstairs sewing. She says she is not Virginia, but grandmother. He asks her if she remembers Farida? She says she can't remember anything. He tells her some more about Farida. She tells him to hush, because she can't speak of that inside the house. Her husband forbade any talk about Farida. If she talked about Farida, all kinds of spirits would come into her house and she doesn't want that.
She walks with him arm in arm to an old greenhouse. Grandmother now says that this is her favorite place, as it was also for Farida. How is her little girl doing? Kindzu says she is okay. Grandmother says she found a little boy unconscious in her yard one day. She helped him and eventually he told her his name was Gaspar and that he had run away from the mission. She adds that she asked the boy to stay with her since no one knew where his mother was. She says that she is almost related to the boy because he is the son of her late husband. She adds that the boy stayed a couple of days and then just ran away.
At night Kindzu sits by the shore thinking.
Back to the present. After reading the above passages in the diary, Muidinga now knows his father was white, a Portuguese fellow. And his father is now dead, but father's wife is still alive. He thinks maybe this means that his mother does want to see him. Afterward Tuahir tells the boy a story. Then they start their journey again. And they come right back to their burned-out bus. The boy starts digging a hole looking for water. He reaches water and it starts bubbling over. There is so much water that it fills the road for a long ways. The bus starts floating away and the two guys get on board. Tuahir says that the bus isn't moving, the road is. "Everything happened near the bus. The whole country went past us, sleepwalking." Now the bus is in the middle of a slow moving river. Tuahir asks the boy to read him some more from the diary.
Flashback. Kindzu tells Surendra that he found out that Gaspar had gone to the old plantation and from there the boy went to an Aunt. He is going to look for the Aunt at Xiquingula village. Surendra tells him that village was attacked and all the survivors are at the Xalala camp. Soldiers at the camp start gathering boys together at the point of a gun. They will take them to serve in the army. Kindzu calls out for Gaspar, but none of the kids answer to that name. A tough looking guy with a machine gun asks Kindzu if he it trying deliberately to get killed? Kindzu backs off.
After the soldiers are gone, a woman asks Kindzu why was he calling out the name Gaspar? The woman turns out to be Aunt Euzinha. Kindzu quickly tells her that Farida is still alive. The Aunt thought for sure Farida was dead. Kindzu asks her if she know where Gaspar is? Why? Because Farida wants her son with her. Aunt Euzinha tells him that she's glad that Farida now wants to be a mother. It was so hard on her. She was raped, was all alone and then had a mulatto son. In the village, people would spit at her as she walked by. Aunt Euzinha now asks if this is about love and Kindzu says yes, it is. That's all she needed to know. She says that she sent Gaspar to a safer camp. She whispers the name of the camp to Kindzu.
Back to the present. The water in the bus is close to reaching the bus seats. After reading about what Aunt Euzinha said, Muidinga says he is now very proud of his mother. She is a survivor. The bus goes down the river and into the sea. Tuahir has a fever. He tells the boy that if he should die, just push him overboard into the water. He wants to be surrounded by water, not dirt. Muidinga tells him he is not going to die. At night they see the light from the lighthouse. A little later they see the ship, Moby Dick.
Tuahir seems to be sinking fast, so Muidinga decides to read the last part of the journal to him. Kindzu writes that after seeing Aunt Euzinha, he goes on to visit two more camps. All of a sudden Muidinga realizes that Tuahir has died. He tries to awaken him, but it is hopeless. The bus is getting very close to the ship and Farida is looking at it on the water. Muidinga starts reading again to Tuahir, even though he is now dead.
Flashback. Kindzu reaches a burned-out bus. When he approaches the gang, he is pushed down into the grass by the boy bandits. Kindzu stands back up and is shot in the chest. He drops back into the grass. (This is the man that Muidinga and Tuahir found dead outside the bus in the grass.) It is only now that Muidinga realizes that the dead man by the bus was none other than Kindzu. Before he dies, Kindzu sees Gaspar and Tuahir coming along the road. He calls out the name "Gaspar" and dies.
Good film with twists in the plot. One doesn't learn much about the Mozambican Civil War itself, but the terrible effects of the war on the civilian population is certainly shown. One of the biggest problems for villagers and others were the roving gangs of young boys armed with AK-47s. They were brutal and merciless to civilians, taking whatever they wanted from them, including their lives. It's these gangs that the mulatto boy Muidinga and a black adult named Tuahir worried most about after they left a refugee camp for good. And it's one of these gangs that caused Muidinga a lot of grief. Nick Lauro Teresa (as Muidinga) and Aladino Jasse (as Tuahir) were both good in their roles.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1977-1992 – the Mozambican Civil War begins and ends. This was just two years after the end of the war of independence.
The ruling party was the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO).
This FRELIMO was violently opposed by the Rhodesian- and (later) South African-funded Mozambique Resistance Movement (RENAMO).
Over 900,000 died in the fighting and from starvation.
5,000,000 civilians were displaced. Landmines made for a lot of amputees among the civilian population. Landmines are still a problem in Mozambique.
1992 – the fighting ended.
1994 – the country's first multi-party elections were held.
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