The disparate lives of three passengers aboard a cross country train
On board a sleeper train crossing Tanzania, the stories of three passengers unfold. Rukia is an entrepreneurial woman, on her way to begin a new life. Isaya is an old Masai man heading back to the bush with his grandson. Peter, a powerful preacher, makes money by letting his followers pay for his services. This microcosm offers a glimpse into their lives as each character moves towards an uncertain future in this precarious society.
On the poorest part of the train a Maasai elder is returning home to his tribe, but his travelling companion, his grandson William, aspires to perform on stage in the city rather than live according to the traditions of his family. Having previously been told “we are not human and spat on”, the pair are confronted by fellow Tanzanians sitting beside them and labelled as “killers”, being from a tribe of poor reputation.
Meanwhile in first class, charismatic preacher Peter, who earlier in life was the leader of a large gang of boys, captivates his audience with promises of vanquishing “demons, evil spirits and witchcraft” whilst also shilling his book.
Despite the desperate personal situations that have left each of the characters feeling close to hopeless, they continue to resist the preconceptions with which others have burdened them. As their journey approaches its terminus a startling incident forces a premature stop; but the adversity that the situation brings to the passengers could prove crucial in cementing their sense of unity.
Reviews and More
“Director Jeroen van Velzen paints a compelling picture of the East African country... his shot composition is truly terrific” – DANDANO
“Jeroen van Velzen’s discretely observed documentary finds a whole world of stories and emotions within the confines of a few swaying, crowded railway carriages” – Allan Hunter, Tribeca Review
“a beautifully open, subtly structured glimpse at modern life in sub-Saharan East Africa” – Nolan Kelly, The Pavlovic Today
For a Q&A with director Jeroen Van Velzen, see here.
Tribeca Film Festival - Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film
Encounters Film Festival - Official Selection
Sheffield Doc/Fest - Official Selection