Tuesday, 9 December 2008

rostov luanda (d. abderrahhmane sissako)

Rostov Lunda is a documentary road movie, detailing the director's quest to find Baribanga, an old Angolan friend who he once knew in Russia. Sissako wends his way through Angola, with only an old photograph to help him. He stops to ask people if they've seen his friend wherever he goes, and as he does so, he creates a portrait of the former Portuguese colony, a state shredded by decades of civil conflict in the aftermath of independence.

Of course, had Sissako found his friend in the opening days of his journey, it would have made for a different film. The longer it takes to find him, the more mileage there is in his travelogue. Perhaps it is not altogether fortuitous that it is on his last evening he finally learns Baribanga isn't in Angola at all, but Berlin. Along the way Sissako meets a surprising and touching collection of individuals, of mixed racial descent. Angola is another rainbow nation, where the disenfranchised can be black, white or of mixed race. All are unified by their ability to have survived, where so many others haven't.

Sissako talks about how Angolan independence was seen as an inspirational moment in African development for his generation when he was younger. The troubles the country was heir to were testament to what has gone wrong on the continent. However, the director's selection of stories seems calculated to cultivate a new optimism; not least when a stately black woman explains how she was finally cajoled to learn to stand and use her feet again after years of sitting, lured by the irresistible pull of dance, a dance she demonstrates for his camera. Likewise, the underlying narrative ends with a satisfying conclusion, when Sissako finds Baribanga in Berlin.

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