Each year we at VSAFF present one film from an African country other than South Africa.  This year we’re extremely pleased to present Pili, from Tanzania. 

Carrying a hoe over her shoulder as she ambles along a dirt road, Pili eyes an empty market stall. Talking to her friend while they work together in the fields, she says, “Digging all day, fighting for money, I can’t do this my whole life.” When Pili is offered the chance to rent the sought-after stall, she is forced to make increasingly difficult decisions with ever-deepening consequences.  Her apparently leisurely pace of life – and of the film itself – conceals the enormous stresses she faces every day, and the dreadful situations Pili is forced to endure.  Among these are her secret HIV positive status and the exploitative nature of her relationships with men.  Lead actor Bello Rashid, who appears in virtually every scene, is luminous, calm and courageous. Pili is a unique collaboration between the filmmakers and local women. 70% of the cast are HIV-positive, and all locations, including health centres and AIDS clinics are real.

By the end of the film, despite the odds and the awful compromises she makes, Pili finds redemption and inspires us with her heroism and resilience.




  • Leanne Welham nominated – The Douglas Hickox Award (Best Debut Director), British Independent Film Awards
  • Leanne Welham named one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow
  • Audience Award and Special Jury Mention for Screenplay Award – Dinard British Film Festival – France
  • East End Film Festival – London, England
  • Pan-African Film and Arts festival – Los Angeles


“A wholly remarkable film, just barely fictionalized from the lives of its cast of nonprofessional actors, about the indomitable spirit of the women of East Africa …. Bello Rashid, as Pili, gives the film a quiet yet rock-solid center: MaryAnn Johanson – flickfilosopher

“ … a gruelling but lyrical Swahili-language drama with a Loach-like willingness to tackle big issues through small stories …” Ed Potton – The Times (UK)

“One woman’s journey through hardship, pain, endurance and hope.” Rotten Tomatoes

“ … brings us closer to empathy with other humans who have a much harder furrow to plough than we do.” Chris McNab – Culturefly

Director: Leanne Welham
Writer: Sophie Harman 
Running time: 85 min
Language: Zulu (with subtitles)
Rating: PG

Community Partners:

Vancouver Foreign Film Society