In The Battle of Tabatô, first-time feature director João Viana explores “music, magic and post-colonial angst” in Guinea-Bissau.
The story centers on Fatu, who teaches at the local university, who is about to get married to a well-known musician in Tabatô, a village where everyone makes music. Her father has returned home to Guinea-Bissau from Portugal to attend her wedding but on the way there, it becomes apparent that his return has unearthed the buried trauma of his experiences as a soldier in the colonial war decades earlier.
A former Portuguese colony, Guinea-Bissau (not to be confused with its neighboring Guinea) won its independence from the European country in 1973.
There isn’t much of what I’d call a thriving filmmaking community/industry in Guinea-Bissau, with Flora Gomes (who’s made some 7 films) likely being the country’s most prominent filmmaker.
Director Viana’s low-budget contribution (also the filmmaker’s feature film debut), The Battle of Tabatô, is said to have been a labor of love – further described as a raw, luminescent gem of a film that helps shift the discourse of filmmaking in Africa.
The film is currently traveling the international film festival circuit, with a playdate set for the Toronto International Film Festival next month.
Check out the visually-intriguing trailer below, which, unfortunately, isn’t subtitled in English: