Binti 2021 (also translates to Her Life) is the brainchild of Maria Shoo and is adapted into a film by Director and Writer Seko Shamte with fellow writer Angela Ruhinda. The film takes you through the journey of four Tanzanian women, what they have to go through to keep their lives in the balance, and the responsibilities in their lives.
The city of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania is the dwelling of these four women who persevere through life to realize their dreams and push through life’s difficulties. Black Unicorn Studios chooses a guerilla form of filmmaking, using the handheld camera as an overseer, fixing its eyes on the lives of the four women. This less formal form of filmmaking gives a very raw feel to the overall narrative and is often able to portray the battles of life for characters in a very realistic manner.
‘Binti’ Synopsis: Four Women. Four Battles. True Grit.
The film opens, and we meet Tumaini, a woman who runs a shop of her own in the city that supplies regular groceries. Tumaini’s father died leaving behind a huge debt for his family. Unaware of his death, the debtors kept coming back to collect the money. Tumaini convinces her mother that the wedding ring must be sold to pay off the debt, and they eventually let go of the store as well. However, before she can make a decision, Tumaini meets a wedding gown designer, Angela, who had a store next to Tumaini but had moved somewhere else.
We become more acquainted with Angela, whose newly wedded husband turns her life upside down right from the day they are married. Angela’s mother had warned her beforehand that it would not end well, considering his tremendous bursts of anger. Angela deals with this in a classy manner after he posts on Instagram, insinuating that she forcibly killed her unborn child. Angela finally goes live on Instagram to confess and tell the world who he is and everything that he did to her when he was at her door, raging that she would open up. A jealous rage comes over him, and he burns Angela’s shop. Everything adds up to Angela’s finally finding the strength to walk out and break the engagement. During the rebuilding of the shop, Stella approaches Angela and offers her support.
Stella is an eager-to-be mother. After trying various attempts at IVF treatment, the couple is seemingly distraught since they are unable to conceive a child. Stella and her husband have made a nursery that seems to have no occupants. Almost devoid of hope, Stella persuades her husband to try it naturally for three months, which they do. Changing their diet and with sufficient exercise, Stella gets a false positive. Her confidence is broken and drives her to finally decide that having a child is not what they want now. She chooses to be happy with her husband instead and goes out for drinks at a lovely shack at the beach. Rose happens to be at the same shack and pops by to greet Stella.
Stella is a successful woman who finds a caring husband in James, with two children. The girl is not a problem as much as the boy is. Rose has to be very patient with Chris, a unique child with a cognitive disability. Through these stories, we see that women’s roles in society are by far underrated, and their frustrations are genuine.
Binti promotes the notion that a female must always win because society as a whole lacks the ability to recognize or hold anyone accountable in any way. Women, as a gender role, stand as primal figures for the survival of both sexes. Mostly, there is a lack of empathy from her counterparts. A woman is always alone and hardly ever given the respect or love that she seeks in moments of despair or trauma. Be it a mother’s trauma of abandoning her child or a woman suffering from abuse, there are several barriers that the patriarchal society places in her day-to-day life.
Director Semo Shamte shows you first-hand how lonely this journey is. As the film progresses, we relate to the stories of these characters as they fit the type that you would see around you every day. But with this form of filming, we travel along with them to experience deep emotions and transitions in their lives that are troubling truths but also aid in the realization of a better life.
Binti 2021 is a Tanzanian social drama film directed by Semo Shame. It is currently streaming on Netflix.