Pumzi is a Swahili word meaning breath. Directed by Wanuri Kahiu, the film is a Kenyan short science fiction starring Chantelle Burger and Kudzani Moswela.

Plot Summary:

At about twenty-one minutes long, Pumzi is set in a futuristic East Africa, thirty-five years after World War III, dubbed the “Water War.” It follows Asha (Kudzani Moswela), a young museum curator and scientist who lives in a self-sustaining enclosed community.

In this community, every drop of water is carefully purified and reused. The citizens are also monitored closely, and must take “dream repressors,” drugs that eliminate dreams. The film begins when Asha is dreaming about a tree—a living thing outside the confines of her village. She discovers a forgotten sample of soil. Upon planting a seed in it, Asha realizes that the outside world may contain life.

Asha requests permission from to leave and investigate the outside, and is denied, told that life outside is impossible. Acting against the wishes of her superiors, she leaves her home to discover the outside.

The next paragraph may contain spoilers.

The ending is bittersweet. Asha sacrifices her last drops of water and indeed her own life to save the tree, holding a scarf over it in her last moments, before dying of exhaustion and dehydration. At the very end, we see a forest expand from the spot where Asha's body lay over the tree.


For a budget of 35,000, the special effects were surprisingly good. The only thing that bugged me were the water bottles, as much as they resembled Gatorade bottles, but the holographs which, I assume, were computer animated, were a neat touch.

The characters appear to communicate telepathically, and do not seem to talk face-to-face. As a result, there is very little dialogue and the audience must focus on the picture and not necessarily the words.

I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. The last scene was what really touched me, and its theme of water conservation is something surprisingly uncommon in dystopian fiction. Although I wish it would have been longer, highlighting in greater detail Asha’s struggles to reach the outside with more information on the society, it was short, simple, and needed no more time to express its theme and move the viewers.

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