Home About Titles News Reviews Press Shop Contact

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)
  • Asian competition, Singapore International Film Festival, 2010
  • In competition for the Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film Award, Tokyo International Film 2010
  • World Cinema Competition, Mumbai International Film Festival 2010
  • In Best Documentary competition, Cinemanila International Film Festival 2010

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. Winner of the 2010 ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu Photography Award, his works straddle fiction and documentary and have been presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, Centre Pompidou Paris, Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, Musee du Quai Branly Paris, Mori Art Museum Tokyo, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, as well as the Biennales of Venice and Singapore.  His films have been in official selection and competition in the international film festivals of Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Rotterdam and Montreal. A founding member of 13 Little Pictures, a film collective based in Singapore, he is currently developing his fourth feature film, BETOK (Hong Kong Asia Film Financing 2010, Hubert Bals Fund award).

Press and International Distribution / Sales Contact