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Tanzanian Filmmaker Amil Shivji is Making History with a Story of Love and Resistance

A new film marks a proud moment for Tanzania in that it adapts a classic Tanzanian novel and is also the first Tanzanian film accepted into the Toronto International Film Festival. For its young filmmaker, Amil Shivji, it represented a bit of a departure from his earlier work, which focused on marginalized communities, but it represented an amazing opportunity to tell a story of cinematic proportions. Shiviji remembers, like many other Tanzanians, reading the book “Vuta N’Kuvute” when he was in high school. Written in Swahili, Adam Shafi’s award-winning coming-of-age love story, set in colonial Zanzibar, left an impression on Shiviji, a budding young writer at the time. But it wasn’t until he was in the middle of working on his first film, many years later, that he returned to the story, looking for inspiration among local authors like Shafi. The novel would not only provide that, but it would also become the second film he made and the first from Tanzania to be selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.