Memories of a Burning Tree

Tanzania, Netherlands, Singapore | 2009 | 86min | Swahili | English Subtitles | HD

  • Göteborg International Film Festival 2010, International Film Festival Rotterdam 2010 (World Premiere)
  • Singapore International Film Festival (Asian Film Competition)

Also titled: Kumbukumbu Za Mti Uunguao

“One can hope this work receives wide exposure because such a fresh outsider’s look at an African region is not common in world cinema. Together with Korean American Lee Isaac Chung’s MUNYURANGABO, this is most important quiet examination of lives outside our usual cinema experience.” Michael Campi

“A Singaporean director has made a movie in Tanzania. In Swahili. With a cast of non-actors. And it’s amazing. Kumbukumbu Za Mti Uunguao (Memories of a Burning Tree) is a multi-layered ensemble drama that cuts to matters of the heart and soul.”  Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal

“With understated performances from non-professional actors speaking Swahili, the film gives a striking impression of urban African life without pushing violence, poverty or disease.” Ian Mundell, senses of cinema

Website: www.memoriesofaburningtree.blogspot.com


Smith comes to Dar es Salaam to tie up some loose ends. He meets Link, a tourist guide, who agrees to help him. Along the way they are offered help by Abdul, a grave digger, and Toatoa, a metal scavenger, who themselves are searching for answers to their own journeys. Their search eventually leads them to realise that this is a never-ending journey of dreams and disappointments. With an ensemble cast of non-professional actors and an improvised script, this film is an homage to the road movie genre, where ultimately the road ends when you want it to end.

Technical Specifications

Country of production: Singapore, Malaysia, Tanzania, The Netherlands

Production Company: Paddy Pictures

Co-production Companies: Studio Shermano, 13 Little Pictures

Running length: 86 minutes / COLOR

Year of production: 2010

Language: Swahili

Subtitles: English

Original Format: HD PAL

Screening Format: HDCAM PAL or Digibeta PAL

Aspect Ratio: 1:1.85

Sound: Stereo


Director: Sherman Ong

Writers: Sherman Ong with Peter Mbwago & Nkumi Hamis Mtingwa

Producer: Sherman Ong

Co-producers: Gertjan Zuilhof, Tan Bee Thiam

Cinematographer: Sherman Ong

Sound: Nkumi Hamis Mtingwa, Malto Tambi

Editor: Ming An, Kent Chan

Assistant Director: Peter Mbwago

Script Supervisor: Edgar Chatanda

Post-production Sound: Takuya Katsu

Camera Assistant: Malto Tambi

Fixer/Location: Link Reuben

Music: The ‘Tribute to Mardana’ Gang

Publicity Designer: Catherine Chia

Supported by: International Film Festival Rotterdam


Smith K. Kimaro

Link Reuben

Abdul Khalfan Malaika

Khalid Saleh Bilal

Mariam Rashid

Grace Mathayo

Miriam Emanuel

Mosses Samseni

Raheli Augustino

Supporting Cast

Rase Ndunguru

Stephen Josephat

Silvan N Mkude

Abdullah Saidi

Halima Hassan

Gladness Charles

Christina Jumas

Zaina Saidi

Gwamaka Mwakalinga

Khadija Borna

Khadya Mohamedi

Joruh Jackson

Amina Irajabu

Secemani Husseni

Sikoca Zoni

Shomaki Zumk

Zuena Lawi

Ramadhani Shabani

Mohamed Abdalah

Earohiney Njoki

Goodlucky Simon

Adamy Hamizi

John Kachile

Previous Screenings


International Film Festival Rotterdam (World Premiere)

Goteborg International Film Festival (World Premiere)

Singapore International Film Festival (Asian Film Competition)

Hong Kong International Film Festival

African, Asian & Latin American Film Festival, Milan

Director’s Biography

Sherman Ong is a filmmaker, photographer, visual artist and educator. Straddling fiction and documentary, his films have won awards in Singapore, Hong Kong, Greece, Italy, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He is an alumnus of the 1st Berlinale Talent Campus 2003 and has premiered works at Int’l Film Festival Rotterdam, Int’l Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Institute of Contemporary Arts London, International Electronic Art Festival VideoBrasil, the Mori Art Museum Tokyo, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, and at the Venice, Singapore and Jakarta Biennale.

As of 2009, he has participated in Visual Arts exhibitions in Jakarta, Lithuania, Australia. He has recently contributed a new work for the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2009.

In 2010, he was commissioned by International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Forget Africa program to make Memories of a Burning Tree, a feature-length film in Swahili. At the festival, he also presented two other films: Flooding in the Time of Drought and a new short film, Tickets. Flooding in the Time of Drought was also presented at the Centre Pompidou in Paris this year.

Sherman is currently developing his fourth feature film, Betok, which has recently been selected for funding by the Hubert Bals Fund.

More information on Sherman can be found at www.shermanong.com

Press and International Distribution / Sales Contact



5 Responses

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  1. Making of Memories « 13 LITTLE PICTURES said, on December 14, 2009 at 12:08 am

    […] Commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam as part of the Forget Africa Project, Memories of a Burning Tree is conceived and directed by Sherman, shot in Tanzania, with the collaboration of the local […]

  2. […] addition, we’ve completed shoot on 3 other feature films (Memories Of A Burning Tree, Night Lights and Red Dragonflies), all in post-production […]

  3. […] Little Pictures, including the only 2 feature films selected: Flooding in the Time of Drought and Memories of a Burning Tree by Sherman Ong. How he managed to make 2 feature films (and a couple of short films) in a year, the […]

  4. […] the film festival, 13 Little Pictures will be presenting the completed feature-length films: MEMORIES OF A BURNING TREE by Sherman Ong and RED DRAGONFLIES by Liao Jiekai.  This will be the Asian premiere of […]

  5. […] Memories of a Burning Tree will be in Asian Feature Film Competition at the Singapore International Film […]

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