Oberhausen Review: Nyo Vweta Nafta

Inhambane. Mozambique. King Best. Samsung Galaxy. Versace. Babes. White rooster. There are no toothpicks in Norway – the list goes on. And still the synopsis of Nyo Vweta Nafta by Ico Costa sums up perfectly what viewers at the 63rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen were allowed to see in the International Competition.

"I had no script, no story, no synopsis. The desire was to shoot almost on improvisation, in the heat; from that energy something would have to come out,“ says the Portuguese director about his fifth short film. Shot on Super16mm it’s a far from cheap and rather risky enterprise.

But the outcome is worth every cent. While the filmmaker was driven by his search for the theme of his film he put the search itself at the core of Nyo Vweta Nafta – which translates as "Searching for Nafta“ from Gitonga.

The search for Nafta frames the episodical observations to come. The camera follows an elderly man in the opening scene as he turns his head – scanning a market place in Mozambique - and wanders looking for something or someone. He asks people for a girl  - Nafta -who used to work here but finds no relevant information.

From there the short takes the viewer on a journey through Mozambique and cuts into moments in the everyday lives of young men and uncovers their ambitions and desires.

What these men are looking for is not far off – girls, money, fame, or maybe a Samsung Galaxy or Versace. Things they aspire to but don't have. But what they do have is the baobab, a superfruit. And superfruit is the new thing in Europe, responds a young man. “It's the passport to Europe”, he proclaims to his friend raving on about not being able to afford certain luxuries. Having said this, the camera slowly descends from the baobab tree where this conversation took place. Moving around the tree with the setting sun just above the horizon, the camera catches some warm-coloured reflections on the film and slowly distances itself until you get the whole picture: a massive baobab tree presents itself as the closing image with the young men remaining as mere small figures in the tree picking fruit.

Ico Costa is one of the young and promising independent auteur filmmakers from Portugal, free from generic conventions he creates a sensual cinema. But far from thoughtlessly collected observations, Nyo Vweta Nafta literally cites the colonial past of Mozambique through imperialist Portugal from historical book quotes and illustrates fantasies and hopes connected to the outland – or just the search for a woman – in reciprocity and great respect for another.

Nyo Vweta Nafta -which was premiered in competition earlier this year at the International Film Festival Rotterdam before screening at Oberhausen - was produced by Lisbon production company TERRATREME made up of a collective of young filmmakers taking production into their own hands and along their own lines. Among them, co-founder Pedro Pinho, whose first fiction feature is currently being showcased at the upcoming Cannes Director's Fortnight as a special screening.


22 May 2017, by Sabine Kues