By Casey Monteiro
One film led to the making of another. That’s the genesis of the documentary, The Club, whose makers are an unusual combination of a filmmaker and an anthropologist.
Filmmaker Nalini Elvino De Sousa talks of how the idea for a documentary was born. “Pedro Pombo (anthropologist) and I had gone to Dar es Salaam for a conference,” she says.
Explains Nalini, “I presented my documentary, Special Envoy, and from there, we had one free day and decided to go to Zanzibar. We immediately fell in love with the place. During the day, I received a lot of messages from Goans who were born in Zanzibar and had left when they were children. They had wonderful memories of the place and we began to realise the dimension of the community of Goans in Zanzibar and later in Dar es Salaam.”
Nalini continues, “That's when we decided that we had to make a documentary about it. Even though Pedro was not been involved in the making of my previous documentary, he has accompanied me in the discussions about the movie because of his extensive knowledge of the Afro-Asian migration along the Indian Ocean.”
WHY A FILM ON A CLUB?
“The film uses the centenary celebrations of the club in Dar es Salam as its focus, but it delves into the lives of the Goans who were born there,” explains Nalini. The main ideas of the film was to celebrate the club – Dar es Salaam Institute, and the people who made this club their second home.
She further says, “The club – Dar es Salaam Institute – known by the short form, DI, is a building that stands out from all other buildings in Dar. It was designed by architect Anthony Almeida. It used to be called the Goan Institute, but after the independence of Tanzania, it had to change its name in order to survive.
“The club could no longer serve only Goans; and had to open doors to all Tanzanians, and that is how it changed its name and has survived to this day. What is amazing is that many buildings were destroyed, giving way to huge buildings, but not the DI. It is protected by law and its structure has remained through the course of time,” says she.
Pedro Pombo, co-author of the documentary says, “In Dar, the club is still quite active and the community is smaller than in the ’70s, of course, but existent and dynamic.”
“When we decided to do the documentary, we were very excited by the idea of interviewing Tony (Anthony) Almeida. Unfortunately, he died a few months before we reach Dar. However, we did have the opportunity to interview his daughter, Alison, and granddaughter, Lianne,” adds Nalini.
MUSIC, THE MAIN COMPONENT
The film, which is woven round the Dar es Salaam Institute, has music playing a vital role. “There is no doubt that music runs in the veins of most Goans, so we could not escape music when we were describing the lives of Goans in Tanzania,” says Nalini. “Music was everywhere.”
She quotes, Adolfo Mascarenhas, retired professor of Dar es Salaam University, who says in the movie: “All the bands and band masters in Zanzibar, in the 19th century, were Goans.”
The documentary also has interviews of musicians who played at the Dar es Salaam Institute.
The documentary, which was shot in Goa, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar was not bereft of difficulties. Covid-19 struck among other things.
Nalini recounts, “We could not take our usual team to Tanzania, so we had to hire the team in Dar and Zanzibar. Since they do not usually work with us, we didn’t always get what we wanted. We also had very little time in Tanzania, and when we thought of going back there, the pandemic hit us all. Fortunately, we met with extraordinary people who were kind enough to share their stories with us, and the difficulties were overcome by the number of extraordinary stories we gathered and the places we visited in those few days. Later, we managed to shoot a few more scenes in Goa during the pandemic and conclude the documentary.”
THE RESPONSE SO FAR
Till now, the film has drawn a good response from viewers. The first screening was held at Bayreuth University (Germany) during their film festival. Later, the documentary was screened in New York University (Abu Dhabi) followed by a screening at VIC Art House in Aveiro (Portugal). In August 2022, it was screened in Mauritius.
“The response has been overwhelming!” says Nalini. She cites how in November last year, it was broadcast on Portuguese television and she got a lot of e-mails from known and unknown people who watched the documentary.
“Some were Goans who migrated, or were born, in Mozambique and went to Portugal after 1975,” she explains adding, “They told me they could understand very well what the Goans in Tanzania went through, when in 1961, they had to choose whether to remain back in Tanzania, go back to Goa or migrate to Canada or UK. It was not an easy decision at the time and the documentary reflects these difficulties.”
In November 2022, it was screened for the first time in Goa during the Campal Heritage Festival. Recently, it was the closing film at the Film Fest at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho, Panjim.
At the JIFF (Jaipur International Film Festival), it won the second prize for best feature documentary, and is a nominee at the Pan African Youth Film Festival, the results of which are awaited.
Speaking about the future, Nalini says she would like to screen the documentary in different colleges in Goa, for now.