For giving an ethnographical face to post-war Angola, the importance of Zeze Gamboa’s The Hero shouldn’t be underestimated. Thirty years of civil strife has left the people of the country broken, both in body and spirit, and in the many traumas suffered by the characters in the film, Gamboa sees a different strain on the body politic. Everyone has a war story—those who aren’t missing legs are missing jobs or, worse, parents or children—but they’re scarcely united, which is something Gamboa looks to accomplish with the film’s message of solidarity. The story’s Altmanesque tapestry includes prostitutes and young thugs, a homeless war hero, Vitório (Oumar Mekena Diop), who loses the prosthetic leg he worked hard to get from a government hospital, and a local teacher with a heart of gold who launches a crusade—with the help of her boyfriend (whose studies in the United States are perhaps to blame for his self-righteousness)—to bring Vitório’s cause to the attention of the downtrodden masses. It’s not important to understand the nature of the wars that plagued Angola for more than three decades because the focus here is on the victims of those wars and how their traumas overlap and finally converge. Slow and clunky in parts, The Hero is unassuming and confidently directed for a first feature. That the characters don’t exactly come together in the ways you expect them to makes its hopefulness all the more appealing.
- California Newsreel
- 97 min
- Zézé Gamboa
- Carla Baptista
- Oumar Makena Diop, Milton Coelho, Patrícia Bull, Neuza Borges, Orlando Sérgio, Maria Ceiça, Makena Diop, Prospero Joao, Catarina Matos, Raúl Rosário
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