Quite simply, the best film I’ve seen this year, with the possible exception of The Favourite which was something quite different
Its the story of the beginning of the Angolan civil war, told partly in cartoon form, partly in live footage and all through the eyes of the polish socialist journalist Ricardo. It makes no attempt to draw a moral equivalence between the 2 sides – the anti-colonialist MPLA inspired by the recent portuguese revolution, and a dubious bunch of desperate fighters backed by the CIA and apartheid South Africa. Yet it doesn’t glorify (all of) the MPLA fighters – the vain and arrogant battalion leader Daddy Cool (no really), does not come out of this very well at all.
The style will draw inevitable comparisons with Waltz With Bashir, but there is one significant difference. Whereas WWB was much more interested in the traumatised Israeli soldiers than the thousands that they massacred in the Sabra and Shatila camps, this one is unambiguously on the side of the oppressed.
There is a legitimate criticism that the film probably spends too much time with the white Polish reporter (author of the book on which it was based) and the Portuguese soldier who changed sides to help the resistance, but African voices are heard – quite literally as the film is interspersed with interviews with the real life participants of the film, over 40 years on.
If this weren’t enough, it is gorgeously filmed – not least where the cartoon suddenly bursts into real life film of the lush Angolan landscape. And it poses interesting and important questions on the role and duties of war reporters: does their very presence affect the conflicts on which they are reporting? Can they – indeed should they – be neutral? Should they withhold reports if publishing means that the Forces of Evil will profit?
I’ve been to a series of films lately tbat have somehow underwhelmed me. Great to say that this wasn’t one of them