The Grande Hotel on the seafront in Beira, Mozambique opened in 1955 during Portuguese colonial rule. At the time, it was the most luxurious hotel in Africa. Although it only had 120 rooms, the large and opulent complex was a little city on its own. Today, it is still a self-contained complex except that its inhabitants now are 2600 squatters.
The director, Lotte Stoops, interviews both current residents and visitors from the hotel’s heyday. Former colonialists remember the hotel with fondness and regret, conjuring up gay and elegant times. For some, the hotel represented some of the best times of their lives. Current residents live a hand-to-mouth existence. For them, even those who have lived there most of their lives, the hotel is described as a temporary stop on the way to something better.
Juxtaposing archival photographs with beautifully shot current footage, Stoops creates a rich picture of the hotel’s past and present. Even stripped of all panelling, window glass and flooring down to its concrete skeleton, the building retains a grace and airiness that recalls its former grandeur. The building stands as a testament to colonial hubris and its decay reflects loss and desperation. Stoops’ film is quiet, thoughtful and complexly textured.
The Grande Hotel
Director: Lotte Stoops
Program: International Spectrum
Saturday, Apr 30, 7:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Monday, May 2, 1:30 pm, Cumberland 3