SIFF 2014: White Shadow ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Hullabaloo on May 17, 2014)

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Israeli director Noaz Deshe’s impressive, strikingly photographed debut is a character/cultural study about the travails of a young albino Tanzanian. There’s also a “ripped from the headlines” element; According to a 2013 U.N. report on human rights, there has been an escalation of horrifying attacks on albinos in Tanzania, because (there’s no delicate way to put this) their organs and body parts have become a high-demand commodity for witch doctors (who use them in rituals and potions). Such is the possible fate for Alias (Hamisi Bazili), sent by his mother to live with his uncle (James Gayo) after witnessing his father’s brutal murder. As if it wasn’t tough enough for bush-dwelling Alias to adjust to life in the big city, his uncle is in debt to gangsters. The subtext recalls Peter Weir’s The Last Wave; a modernized indigenous society struggling to shake off archaic superstitions without losing their sense of cultural identity.

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