Death Metal Angola


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Death Metal Angola
"Relentlessly optimistic."

Why is it that people so often assume punks hate everyone, goths are depressed and metallers are trying to be scary? Often music is an antidote, a way of talking about what we see around us, and nowhere more so than in countries like Angola, where civil war has left cities smashed and people brutalised. Wilker is one of the friendliest people you could meet, and for him death metal provides a way of burning off the pain left by the past. He sees it as a way to bring people together, and that's why he's determined to put on the country's first ever rock festival.

A decade after the end of hostilities, Wilker is still living with Sonia, the woman who rescued and raised him in her makeshift orphanage. Fortunately, she's also a fan of death metal, and clearly thrilled by the scale of his ambition. The task is considerable. Angola still has poor infrastructure and is in the early stages of establishing a fully functional business culture. Simply getting the equipment to where it's needed and figuring out how to power it is quite a challenge, never mind trying to squeeze funding out of the state, contacting bands from around the country and making sure potential attendees hear about it. This is where having 55 brothers comes in handy.

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Mingling the stories of the festival, of Angolan death metal culture and of Sonia's past struggles to save and preserve her unusual family, this documentary never runs short of things to say. It's relentlessly optimistic and will speak with a clear voice to music fans around the world. These aren't just kids picking up guitars for the first time; they know their music theory, are proud of Africa's contributions to the genre, and have spent time developing their own styles. Whilst the music is nothing incredible, it's really not bad, and the infectious enthusiasm with which it's played reveals this as a scene that would be great fun to explore in more depth. Perhaps the strangest thing about this film is seeing it subtitled, as death metal lyrics are usually difficult to discern in one's own language.

With horrific tales of child abuse and the horrors seen in war, this isn't a film for the faint hearted, but none of the suffering it references is sensationalised; it's a fact of life in a country where most people have had similar experiences, and the only practical thing to do is to focus on the future (somebody has painted the Portuguese for 'we are the future' on the wall). The family is poor but there's food and water and electric guitar. Pushed to the margins in many countries, here death metal seems to promise a cultural rebirth.

Reviewed on: 15 Nov 2014
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Death Metal Angola packshot
The owner of an orphanage and a man she rescued in his childhood plan to put on the first ever rock festival in post-war Angola.

Director: Jeremy Xido

Starring: Sonia Ferreira, Wilker Flores

Year: 2012

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Angola, US


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