a film by
Documentary | 83' | Portugal - São Tomé and Príncipe
In the middle of the Atlantic, off the equatorial western African coast lies Sao Tomé, a small archipelago discovered by Portuguese sailors. Originally unpopulated, the colony grew as a major slave trade platform between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas, while also growing as a main cocoa and coffee producer through plantations structures imported from Brazil called Roças.
In 1876, slavery is abolished all over the Portuguese empire while labour at the plantations is replaced by a paid forced labour system that would last until the collapse of Portuguese colonial rule in 1974.
Populated over the centuries by slaves and labourers from other Portuguese African colonies - Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde – San Tomeans inherited poverty and alienation, finding belonging solely in the legends of their ancestors.
Song of Ossobó, the lamentation chant of the unrooted bird, is one of them.
The film features today’s life in Roças Rio do Ouro and Água-Izé, which were among the largest cocoa plantations in São Tomé and Príncipe, combined with archive footage commissioned by the Salazar regime and personal family videos shot by the director’s father in visits to Sao Tome after immigrating to Portugal.
Silas Tiny was born in São Tomé in 1982 and at ﬁve years old immigrated with his family to Portugal. Even before graduating from the National Film School in Lisbon in 2013, Silas directed his ﬁrst feature ﬁlm, the documentary Bafatá Filme Clube (2011), a ﬁlm centered in a former cinema theatre – still maintained by the same projectionist, the phantom-like ﬁgure Canjájá - through which it is shown the dynamic role played by Amílcar Cabral’s hometown, Bafatá, before the independence of Guinea-Bissau in 1975. His second feature documentary The Song of Ossobó (2017) is a voyage through the colonial past of Sao Tomé, the life at the former cocoa plantations that once lived out of slave labor and a personal quest for identity of the director.