Grande Hotel, Beira, Mozambique. In one of the grandest hotels in the world, born of and to luxury, today you enter ‘at own risk’. More than 2500 people live there without water or electricity. They have taken possession of the building and manipulated not only the stones but also the dreams. A journey through present and past of a city in a city; a story about colonial megalomania, revolutionary vanity and feeling at home.
Berta still doesn’t feel at home in Portugal, even after 33 years. As a ‘real – but white - Mozambican’, she feels she’s on holiday in someone else’s house.
Her musings take us to her real ‘home’: the city of Beira. Here resides the Grande Hotel, the symbol of the troubled history of Mozambique, an eyewitness to colonialism, old years eve parties, honeymoons, a revolutionary and a civil war.
This megalomaneous pride and joy of the colonial regime, built in 1955, was doomed to fail. Dream and reality were too far apart. This monster of 12 000 square metres only had 110 extremely luxury rooms. It could not pay off.
60 years later, it is the home of more than 2500 ‘permanent’ guests. Nothing is what it was. Only the skeletal remains. Today decorated in a completely different way. Everything that could be converted for housing is used. The state of the hotel today raises questions.
We get to know the reality of today through Moises and Lapiston, two good friends with an equally turbulent life as the city in the city in which they live. Moises worked his way up in the hierarchy of the internal social organization and therefore knows the Grande Hotel’s goings by heart. The residents have few contact with the outside world and form an - to avoid - enclave.
Gradually the coloured past of the hotel and thus of Mozambique, seeps in. Archive footage but also the anecdotal stories of ‘ghosts from the past’ we hear on images of the hotel today, bring the paradox to life. They tell us how this empty building got populated during the civil war and the major floods in Mozambique. They unveil the revolutionary history of this country and the traces it left behind at the hotel.
We meet Dilat, one of the first ‘occupiers’. The hotel was in perfect condition, including furniture, when he arrived 31 years ago. Slowly but surely, it was dismantled and the material sold. A way to survive. Today, they sell the stones, the only things left... We see the impending danger. The hotel now appears to be a last ‘home’. Their own little corner in this world is crumbling. No one intervenes; a solution is not a political priority.
But besides destruction there is also construction, and therefore hope. Moises helped to build the new mosque and barbershop in the hotel complex. And together with his wife Eliza, he runs a small shop. Every character has its own survival strategy: Dilat dismantles, Moises builds and Berta lives on her memories.
But what has to become of all these people, trapped in their current situation? The dreams and wishes of the protagonists for their future alternate with what the ghosts have in mind for the building: from a controlled implosion, a glorious state museum to a university of the people.