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Tug of War

Spring Grants 2020 - Post-Production Stage

Amil Shivji / Feature Narrative / Tanzania, South Africa, Germany, Qatar / 2021 / 90 min / Colour / Original Language: English, Swahili / Interests: Drama, Politics, History


Set in 1950s colonial-era Zanzibar, ‘Tug of War’ follows a pair of star-crossed lovers Denge, a young but ardent political revolutionary and Yasmine, a runaway bride fleeing an arranged marriage. In their forbidden romance, they are united in their commitment to the revolution for an independent Zanzibar as well as to their love for one another. Joined by Yasmin’s confidant Mwajuma, the trio journey through the island’s diverse communities that—although demarcated by superficial British racial classifications, are unified through their shared cultural roots. Based on the award-winning Swahili novel by Adam Shafi, ‘Tug of War’ paints an engrossing portrait of Zanzibarian history and its struggle for independence from colonial rule.
A coming-of-age political drama about love and resistance, the film is intensely rich in texture, passion and colour—from the vibrant traditional taarab soundtrack to the vivid period costuming. Our two freedom fighters, played charismatically by Gudrun Columbus Mwanyika and Ikhlas Gafur Vora, also have incredible on-screen chemistry. Through an overarching story of universal love, ‘Tug of War’ offers a deeper, more refined narrative about oppression and subservience in a colonised society. A place where even the bravest and most independent of thought struggle to find a secure foothold on their confiscated land.


Amil Shivji
Amil Shivji, Jenna Bass
Steven Markovitz, Amil Shivji
Production Company
Big World Cinema

About the Director

Amil Shivji was born in Tanzania and is a filmmaker and lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam. He believes in using images to challenge the powers that be, in particular, deconstructing urban facades of development and emphasizing the strength and struggles of marginalized communities. Amil has written, directed and produced short films that have participated in Rotterdam and FESPACO, winning the People’s Choice Award in Zanzibar and Best Director in Africa. His feature directorial debut 'T-Junction' (2017), opened Zanzibar International Film Festival, winning three awards. He has a Master's in Fine Arts from York University in Toronto.


  • Main Contact

    Steven Markovitz

    Big World Cinema
    +27 83 2611 044

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