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Sleepwalking Land (2007)

Terra Sonâmbula (original title)
In the midst of Mozambique's devastating civil war, Muidinga, an orphaned refugee, wanders the countryside in search of his mother. His only companion is an elderly storyteller, and the ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Lauro Teresa ...
Aladino Jasse ...
Ernesto Lemos Macuacua ...
Filimone Meigos ...
Joseldo Bastante
Tânia Adelino ...
Erónia Malate ...
Mulher na Estação
Alan Cristina Salazar ...
Bebé na Estação
Gildo Arão Balate ...
Líder do Bando
Jorge Kanic Passe ...
Bando I
Afonso Francisco ...
Bando I (as Afonso Mauricio Francisco)
Alfredo Júnior ...
Bando I (as Alfredo Acilia Junior)
Candido Andrade ...
Bando I (as Candido Tanto Faz Andrade)
Cergílio Félix ...
Bando I (as Cergilio Felix)
Frank Lipunda ...
Bando I
Severino Rafael ...
Bando I


In the midst of Mozambique's devastating civil war, Muidinga, an orphaned refugee, wanders the countryside in search of his mother. His only companion is an elderly storyteller, and the only guide to finding his mother is a dead man's diary. This transporting drama underscores the power of imagination in surviving, and ultimately overcoming, the catastrophe of war. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

14 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sleepwalking Land  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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User Reviews

A gem among African films and one that publicizes a great African novel
29 February 2008 | by (Trivandrum, Kerala, India) – See all my reviews

Not many film-goers may be aware of Portuguese director Teresa Prata's "Sleepwalking land." A film that took Ms Prata 7 years to complete, it is yet to be extensively screened beyond the international film festival circuit. The movie is evidently Ms Prata's labor of love after she spotted a goldmine in Mia Couto's Portuguese novel "Sleepwalking land" published in 1992. The novel is now widely recognized as one of the finest literary works from and on Africa in recent years. Extracts translated into English that I read indicate a remarkable, powerful literary work, falling within the realm of magical realism. It was indeed a work screaming to be captured on celluloid with the help of special effects and convincing local acting talent. The young lady grabbed the opportunity to shoot the film in Mozambique and do the special effects in Portugal. Today her interesting movie adaptation is helping publicize Mia Couto's writing even further and is bringing global attention to both the Mozambican and the Portuguese cinema.

"Sleepwalking land." is one of the most interesting and realistic films on Africa. In the past two months, the film has won the international FIPRESCI award for the best film in competition at the recent Kerala film festival, and an award for best director at the lesser known Pune film festival.

The book "Sleepwalking Land" and film based on the novel are both set during the 15-year civil war that crippled Mozambique. Mia Cuoto has a gifted philosophical turn of phrase to describe the catastrophe of the war: "what's already burnt can't burn again." The film (as in the book) looks back wistfully at the tragedy of the unrest through the eyes of a dreaming orphan boy and provides a glimmer of hope for the survivors of civil anarchy to cope with what is left to build anew. While Mia Cuoto and Teresa Prata focus on the social and economic plight of Mozambique, their respective works can equally mirror the problems of the continent.

The film follows a young orphaned Mozambican boy Muidinga (an endearing performance by an acting novice, Nick Lauro Teresa), who can fortunately read as he had once attended school and is even familiar with Melville's Moby Dick, and his unrelated, illiterate guardian, a wise old man called Tuahir (played by non-professional actor Aladino Jasse), tossed accidentally together by the civil war. The film and the book trace their common will to survive the difficult days. The young boy might have read. or rather heard, the story of Moby Dick, but the name is indelible in his memory. Director Teresa Prata, who adapted the story for cinema, therefore takes creative license, and allows the young boy to call his pet goat "Mody (sic) Dick." (When I questioned the director on this detail, she stated that she was responsible for this change and that it was not part of Couto's book.)

The film and book have two parallel plots. The young boy and the old man, on the run in the bushes from marauding, gun-toting factions of the civil war, come across a charred bus with burnt corpses and their possessions that escaped the fire. Among the possessions of the dead passengers are notebooks that tell a story of a woman named Farida, a squatter on an abandoned ship, waiting for her young son to find her, and a hardworking young man Kindzu, who has fled his burning village that has faced the wrath of the civil war-mongers. In this discovered manuscript, Kindzu meets Farida. Subsequently, Kindzu goes searching for Farida's lost son.

The young boy narrates the tale to the illiterate old man, after reading the manuscript, and begins to associate Farida as his lost mother. He even imagines the name of the ship she is squatting on is called "Mody (sic) Dick" (again, Ms Prata's contribution to the story).

The parallel love story of Farida and Kindzu never takes center stage—the backbone remains the dreams of the young boy under the guiding spirit of the wise old man. Between the two, the viewer of the film is introduced to the problems of Mozambique, of Africa, of any developing country. As in a Greek tragedy, you trudge along a path that gives you a notion of travel and progress, only to return to the same spot, literally and metaphorically.

Pretense and dreams make the film move along. To aid the young boy on his "journey" to his "loving mother Farida" squatting on "Mody (sic) Dick," the old man devises the means to reach the sea (Indian Ocean) from the bushes of Mozambique. The old man digs a hole in the ground. Water sprouts and a stream forms. The stream becomes a river and at the end of the river there is the ocean. In the Ocean, the lead characters find the derelict "Mody (sic) Dick" with Farida on it. Obviously, if you demand conventional realism—there is very little that the film can offer. If you accept magical realism as a tool to narrate a realistic socio-political scenario in Africa, both Mia Couto and Teresa Prata have much to offer and delight your senses.

The viewer gets a glimpse Couto's Mozambique. But among the ruins, Couto and Prata, show a glimmer of hope in the form of an orphan, representing the new generation, learning hard lessons of life in the bush. Ms Prata has made a fine effort to extract remarkable performances from non-professional actors and has proved her capability to adapt and direct an interesting work that would be interesting for any person interested in good African cinema. This film may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but a fine example of good African cinema by a gifted and persevering lady from another continent.

The description of a civil-war torn country itself as a sleepwalking land offers fodder for thought, beyond the usual images of violence, poverty and carnage that adorn the typical Africa cinema.

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