Film: “The Train of Salt and Sugar” 2016
Director: Licinio Azevedo
Actors: Matamba Joaquim, Thiago Justino, Melanie de Vales Rafael
- By Khayelihle Moyo

“The Train of Salt and Sugar” is set on a train travelling from Mozambique to Malawi in 1988 during a war between the Government and armed guerrillas. Apart from the obvious struggle trying to get from point A to point B without dying; this film tells a story of a predictable romance complete with a damsel in distress, a detestable villain and a dashing hero. Nonetheless, it also has multiple complex underlying themes that reflect the present-day world. It shows the world as it is as well as what the world has the potential to become.

Religion is one of the main themes of this film. The religions represented are Muslim, Christian, and Ancestral and Spirit worship. Practising differing faiths did not create any animosity among the characters. The “goodness” of a person was not determined purely on what divine power they believed in. Their actions also contribute to their “goodness” or lack of.

This film also explores relationship dynamics through society (men and women, educated and uneducated, soldiers and civilians, and politicians and the rest of the nation) and how they are affected in tense times such as war. As these relationship circles are not separate from each other, their hierarchical nature often leaves those at the bottom unprotected and abused. 

I found most of the main characters two dimensional. Their cliché good vs evil behaviour contrasted the main theme of the film. However, the dialogue was thought-provoking as it gave a folklore like impression though the use of proverbs. Some of the dialogue is hard to follow and its meaning may have weakened in translation.

Overall, “The Train of Salt and Sugar” can be watched multiple times but is not for those that are easily distracted. They may find it quite slow paced as the dramatic moments are few and far in between. The realistic shooting style, subtle use of music and the portrayal of the characters all come together to create the film’s authentic feel. The grey areas that are represented in this film are clearly present in all aspects of life, but as humans we tend to simplify most issues to black and white to fit our own agendas. You can find good and bad people on either side of a war.

Khayelihle Moyo

Self-aware flawed people, self-knowledge, harmony with mother earth, body butters, the love; hate relationship with I have with Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, Economics, an organised closet, babies that don’t cry and books. These are a few things I love. I have multiple personalities and twice as many passions. I consider myself what Emilie Wapnick calls multipotentialite (check out her TedTalk, its great). Writing is one of my passions. Whether it’s rants, think pieces, poems, short stories and now, film reviews; it’s a healthy means of self-expression that I indulge in when the spirit moves me.

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