Thursday, 22 January 2009

NEW YORK TIMES by Nathan Lee


Sleepwalking Land (2007)

In Mozambique, a Road to Self-Discovery

Published: January 14, 2009

"Sleepwalking Land" opens like a Mozambican riff on Cormac McCarthy's despairing, post-apocalyptic novel, "The Road." An old man (Aladino Jasse) and a young orphan (Nick Lauro Teresa) walk a parched road, keeping an eye out for marauding gangs. They come across a flame-scarred bus stuffed with burnt corpses and make it their home, venturing out to forage for scraps of food in the ravaged landscape.

The boy discovers a notebook left behind by a dead man (Hélio Fumo) whose village was destroyed by the gangs. Its pages tell of his loss and exile, and of a woman (Ilda Gonzalez) who is searching for her lost son. The orphan asks, could it be me? And as in "The Road," he journeys toward the sea to discover his fate.

From this bleak scenario, based on a novel by Mia Couto, the filmmaker Teresa Prata creates an affecting portrait of life during wartime. Ms. Prata, a skilled storyteller with a clear, unsentimental eye, neatly balances large-scale horror with a small-scale point of view charged with simple, direct feeling, deftly interweaving the present-tense narrative with the tale from the journal.

"Sleepwalking Land" has a dreamlike texture and intimations of magic realism, but its confrontation with the experience of war bespeaks a wide-awake mind.

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