Saturday, September 26, 2015

Noaz Deshe's WHITE SHADOW shows us the frightful, lurid, awful life of an African Albino

Uncompromising. That might be a pretty good word to describe a movie like WHITE SHADOW, which, though it sounds like a possible dog or wolf tale (or a remake of that popular TV series from the late 1970s), is actually a story about a young Albino man in Tanzania, Africa, who is almost constantly on the run because Albinos -- like elephants, rhinos and other animals -- are prized most in the Dark Continent for certain of their body parts and organs, which are used by the local Tanzanian witch doctors to make "magical" potions. We're not talking fantasy here. What happens in the film is evidently more the rule than the exception regarding African Albinos.

Co-written (with James Masson) and directed by Noaz Deshe (shown at right), this nearly two-hour movie begins with a lovely visual fantasy/dream. Treasure these few moments because they are just about the only positive and beautiful things you'll be seeing. Post-dream we encounter our hero, an Albino named Alias (played by Hamisi Basili, below) and his family, only to witness the horrifying slaughter of his Albino father. Soon Alias is himself slaughtering a chicken and, with the help of his mother, spilling its blood over Daddy's grave.

We also meet Alias' little friend Salum, (played by Salum Adballah, below) and their friendship goes some distance in making the movie a bit more filmgoer-friendly--story-wise, at least. Yet, finally, loss is every-where for our hero, who spends his time alternating mourning with fleeing.

Impressionistic to a fault, Deshe's film hops and skips all over the place -- from character to character, countryside to city and back again, from witch doctors to the workplace (such as it is), dragging us along as though we had any idea of where were or why. The confusion is effective for a time, but eventually some of us -- yours truly, at least, want a deeper and better understanding of the characters, their background, and the traditions that have helped form the culture we're observing.

These things are certainly hinted at, but the constant motion, the choppiness of the editing, together with the truly horrific tale being told of the persecution and murder of Albinos becomes an endurance test. I watched and finally finished the film, more out of a sense of guilt than anything else -- for a situation this dire deserves to be witnessed.

If the movie succeeds in bringing to light the plight of Albinos in Tanzania (and probably elsewhere in Africa, as well) then it must be credited as a major success. No doubt this is what pushed the likes of Ryan Gosling to act as executive producer on the film.

White Shadow -- from IndiePix, running 117 minutes, and in Swahili with English subtitles -- arrives on DVD and digital platform this coming Tuesday, September 29. Click here to view options for purchase or rental. 

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