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Derin Ajao
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Derin Ajao (Reel Times / Africiné)

João Viana, Filmmaker

Fatu Djebaté and Mamadu Baio, in a still from João Viana's'The Battle of Tabatô'

The Battle of Tabatô, directed by João Viana, 2013
The World in Three Colours

In the aftermath of war, achieving peace becomes a communal effort. This comes to the fore in João Viana's unique, tri-colour world portrayed in The Battle of Tabatô, showing in competition at the 2013 Durban International Film Festival. Shot entirely in black and white, the film is set in the actual village of Tabatô in Guinea Bissau and is spiced with local music.
Its plot is based largely on real-life events and set against the backdrop of the after-effects of Guinea Bissau's (then called Portuguese Guinea) independence struggle of 1973. To add to the sense of reality, the actors bear their own names, with some re-enacting their personal experiences as part of the drama.

Musician Idrissa and school teacher Fatu drive the film's romantic sub-plot. Engaged to be married, both are scheduled to re-unite at Tabatô for the purpose of healing the wounds of Fatu's mentally unstable father Mamadu Baio - an army veteran, burdened with the memory of a war he still believes is on-going, thirty-six years after it has ended.
Fatu is travelling with her father, who has recently returned from exile in Portugal to be at his daughter's wedding. Idrissa is on his way back to the village in the company of a radio show host, to show him the life and music of the village that is home to the last of the Djindis, a group of touring musicians, who are now mostly settled in Tabatô.
It is en route to Tabatô that the rest of the film unfurls - in certain instances like a series of images in a slide show. This happens usually in the scenes with Fatu and the unwell Mamadu.

In such scenes, Viana establishes a tableaux of the actors before they begin to converse in dialogue that is also heavily punctuated with silence. Chimes of the balafon (an local xylophone) occasionally complement the on-screen action, as we follow the characters' return to Tabatô, a return that is not without its tragedy.

A Q&A session followed the screening with Viana taking questions about his style, especially why he filmed in black and white. He responded saying that he literally sees life in "black and white with a bit of red." It is through his eyes that we therefore see The Battle of Tabatô, shot in black and white but with no hint of red.
Viana's 80-minute feature debut is as much about war and peace as it is about the music and traditions of Tabatô, home to the Mandinkas [the local people who are also in Senegal, Guinea, and many countries in West Africa, Editor's note].

Beautifully-made and in its own unique style, elements in The Battle of Tabatô - including the reference to otherworldly forces - come together well, especially in giving depth to the Bissau-Guinean, and by extension, aspects of the African existence, which are usually under-explored.

by Aderinsola Ajao

Paper First published on Reel Times (Durban, 22.07.2013)

Aderinsola Ajao (Nigeria) is one of the four Talent Press Durban 2013 participants.

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   liens films

Alfama 2010
João Viana

Bataille de Tabatô (La) | A Batalha de Tabatô 2013
João Viana

   liens artistes

Lounas Farid

Viana João


07/02/2013 > 17/02/2013
festival |Allemagne |
Berlinale 2013 (63rd Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin)
63ème festival de Berlin

18/07/2013 > 28/07/2013
festival |Afrique du Sud |
Festival international du Film de Durban (DIFF) 2013
34ème édition

19/07/2013 > 23/07/2013
atelier |Afrique du Sud |
Talent Campus Durban 2013
6ème édition

05/09/2013 > 15/09/2013
festival |Canada |
Festival International du Film de Toronto (TIFF 2013)
38ème édition. Festival boasts 146 World Premieres and films from 70 countries

01/11/2013 > 07/11/2013
cycle de cinéma |Canada |
New Wave in African Cinema Film Series - Vancouver, November 2013

19/12/2013 > 26/12/2013
festival |Algérie |
Festival International du Cinéma d'Alger - Journées du Film Engagé (FICA 2013)
4ème édition du Festival International du Cinéma d'Alger dédié au Film Engagé.

16/03/2014 > 24/03/2014
festival |Égypte |
Luxor African Film Festival - LAFF 2014
3ème édition

15/10/2014 > 21/10/2014
festival |France |
Visions d'Afrique 2014, 5° Rencontres Cinématographiques du Pays Marennes Oléron
5ème édition. Une semaine de cinéma africain - 5° édition de VISIONS D'AFRIQUE, en présence de Souleymane Cissé (invité d'honneur), Pocas Pascoal, Mama Keita, Etienne Guillermond et Julien Farrégas, Emmanuel Dongala et Bernard Magnier, Catherine Ruelle et Samuel Lelièvre. 11 Longs Métrages + 3 Courts Métrages.

01/04/2016 > 09/04/2016
festival |France |
Festival du Film Lusophone et Francophone de France - Fest'Afilm 2016
8ème édition.

   liens structures

Berlinale Talent Campus
Allemagne | BERLIN

Capricci Films
France | Nantes

Center for Creative Arts (CCA-UKZN)
Afrique du Sud | DURBAN

Allemagne | MUNICH

Portugal | Lisbonne

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A Batalha de Tabatô
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