By now, most people who follow international rock/metal are aware of the large and growing scene in the central African nation of Angola. Jeremy Xido’s film Death Metal Angola documents the long, bumpy road to the materialization of the nation’s first ever national rock/metal concert, held in Huambo, a city in the heart of the country that was practically reduced to ruins and rubble by the nation’s twenty-six-year civil war.
Sonia Ferreira runs the Okutiuka Orphanage in Huambo, where she lives with her partner, Wilker Flores. They are both passionate rock/metal fans, and Wilker is attached to his guitar. The fact that the couple lives in and runs an orphanage is central to the film. Rather than strictly focusing on the music festival and rock/metal scene, the film also provides background on some of the youths in the orphanage, as well as the orphanage itself. This helps add context to the plot, as life in post-war Angola is grim for many, and the war has left a gaping wound that is still far from healed.
A recurring theme in the film is that music serves as a form of cathartic psychological healing for many of the bands, fans, and even kids in the orphanage. Jayro Cardoso, guitarist of Dor Fantasma feels that the music is a “scream of revolt” which serves as a release for all of the negative energy spawned by the horrors Angolans have endured. One of the teenagers in the orphanage says “rock can clean my heart.” After Dor Fantasma’s set at the fest, a local man screams “We need this! Rock is my fucking life! I can’t control my emotion, I can’t control myself!” Many of the orphanage’s inhabitants have indeed acquired a taste for rock/metal via exposure by Wilker, and the music apparently has the same therapeutic effect on them, as well. The positive power of the supposedly negative music is undeniable.
The logistical challenge of acquiring all necessary resources for the fest to occur is a moving story in itself. A makeshift stage, merch stands, and other facilities necessary for a fest need to be set up on a field not designed for such an event. All the bands arrive the day before the show via different modes of transport. The Angolan Ministry of Culture promises to pay for the costs of the equipment rental, but only provide $1000 while the cost of the equipment rental is $3000. Wilker pays the difference with money he had set aside to further his education in studying computer science and music. When the equipment is finally delivered on the day of the show, it arrives many hours late. Some of the cables are broken, and need to be replaced. With a scheduled starting time of 6:00pm, the show finally gets underway at 11:00pm, opening with Dor Fantasma, who play to a wildly enthusiastic audience. The show is a great success, gathering an incredibly positive reaction from the local crowd. The film then cuts to the following year’s show, which is broadcast live on Angolan TV no less, and appears to be a widely publicized national event.
Death Metal Angola is ultimately a positive film about a seemingly dark subject with an undeniably dark backdrop of bombed-out, landmine-ridden post-war Angola. It is both an enlightening and moving film on many levels, and despite the name, is far more than a mere documentary about the Angolan metal scene. That being said, the film could have featured more footage of the different bands performing. It would surely have been welcomed by metal/rock fans watching the film out of curiousity about the scene, and would have served to better familiarize others with the nature of the music which has such a profound effect on many Angolans. All in all, Death Metal Angola is a great documentary, and is highly recommended to everyone, metalhead and non-metalhead alike.
This film review is written by Tim Salter, a guest reviewer. Tim is a huge supporter of African rock and metal, after becoming a fan of the Angola and Botswana scenes years ago. Tim hopes to see rock and metal bands active in every single country in the world someday.
Support your local bands\m/