1971-1980AngolaDramaPoliticsSarah MaldororThe Female Gaze

Sarah Maldoror – Sambizanga (1973)

Plot Summary of the Film

Sambizanga opens in a coastal village where the men are employed on a construction gang. We follow Domingos, a big, handsom tractor driver, as he as a friendly conversation with Sylvester, a Portuguese engineer. The opening credits appear and we hear the song Monanagambée on the sountrack. Domingos returns home (kicking a soccer ball around with some neighborhood kids en route), where his wife, Maria, awaits him with their infant son. They have a peaceful dinner together. Domingos visits a friend, and brings along a secret revolutionary flyer. We then see Domingos and Maria in bed together with their baby; they take turns holding the boy, trying to calm him into sleep.

Suddenly, at first light, a Land Rover appears in the village, and Domingos is tied up and forced into the vehicle. We realize that the “friend” of the previous evening has betrayed him. Several of the other men slip out of their huts and flee into the fields. Stunned, Maria tries to follow the departing Land Rover, but it is quickly out of sight. She is comforted by the other village women, who bring her food. One of them tells her that she must walk to the town and search for her husband; she is also advised to bring little Bastido, and to make sure he cries when she asks the police about her husband’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, in Luanda a young boy named Zito sees Domingos being taken from the Land Rover into prison. He tells Petelo, an old disabled man who is a nationalist sympathizer, about the prisoner, and they go to tell Chico, a postman and MPLA activist. Chico hears their story and resolves to discover the prisoner’s identity.

Maria begins the long walk in the hot sun from her village to the regional capital, baby Bastido on her back. A woman’s lovely voice sings gently but plaintively on the soundtrack.

Chico goes to find another MPLA activist, Miguel. There he meets his girlfriend, young Bebiana, Miguel’s younger sister. They have a bit of an argument over Chico’s infidelity. Chico tells Miguel about the prisoner, and Miguel promises to pass the news on to Mussunda, one of their leaders.

An increasingly exhausted Maria continues her journey, pausing briefly in a village for some water. Finally, she reaches the town. She goes to the central Administration building, where she finds a Black policeman whom she knows (presumably a man from her village). He presents her to a light-skinned official, who tells her roughly that her husband is a criminal and that she should get out. She begins to cry, but it does not good, and the official leaves. She slaps the villager-policeman, calls him a shitty turncoat for siding with the Portuguese to make the Africans suffer. He then confesses the truth, that her husband has been taken to Luanda. The officials were saying that Domingos wanted to kill all the Whites. He adds that the policemen has beaten her husband, but this she cannot believe; she is sure that he is making up stories. He calms her, puts her on the bus for Luanda, and tells her to go to the police there and to find lodging with Mama Tete, a woman from their village. Maria rides the bus, and we see images of Domingos in prison, standing around, walking in a circle with other prisoners.

She reaches Luanda and finally, late at night, she reaches the home of Mama Tete. She breaks down in tears, but is comforted by Mama Tete and the other women in the household; one of the other women even takes Maria’s baby to her breast. The next morning, Mama Tete volunteers one of the neighborhood boys to lead Maria to the police station. Maria is clearly unsure of herself in these new surroundings (she hasn’t been to Luanda for 12 years). At the police station, a decent Portuguese official tells her that her husband must be a political prisoner, but she asserts that Domingos is not political. Nevertheless, he directs her to the headquarters of the political police. There, she is thrown out and sworn at by a couple of Whites in civilian dress.

Meanwhile, Domingos waits in prison, walking around in a circle with the other prisoners, talking and gesturing to himself.

Miguel hops a ride into town and goes to Mussunda, a tailor who is giving lessons in class consciousness to two young recruits to the movement. He argues that their society’s problems should not be viewed in terms of whites, blacks, and mulattoes, but in terms of rich and poor. Miguel tells him about Domingos, but Mussunda cannot identify the new prisoner. None of their local activists is so big and strong. He promises to somehow find out, and tells Miguel that there will be a big party for party activists on Saturday night.

Domingos is brought to his first interrogration session. He is interrogated by a Mestizo (a mulatto) and a white Portuguese, but he refuses to answer any of their questions. They are especially interested in his telling them who his white contact is. They tell him that his wife and child are waiting outside, but that he will never see them unless he talks. He still refuses to speak, even when confronted by the informer who denounced him. The Portuguese policeman calls him a filthy nigger and beats him brutally.

Miguel, who has been searching out all the Movement’s contacts in the region, reaches the village of Domingos and Maria, and finds the mother of Suminha, one of Domingos’ friends. She tells him that her son is still in hiding and reveals that the arrested man is Domingos, “a good family man.”

Later, in prison, Domingos is smuggled a note from his Movement contact, Timoteo. It tells him to have courage and to reveal nothing.

Maria again tries to see her husband in the political prison, but is told that they have no record of him. They tell her to try another prison.

Domingos, injured and clearly in pain, goes for his second interrogation. It will be his last–we see him being beaten, blow by blow, kick by kick.

Maria goes to the prison, where Zito sees her and correctly assumes that she is the prisoner’s wife. He runs and tells the old man, and they go to help her.

Domingos, already dead, is brought back to his cell, where the other prisoners tenderly clean his wounds and sing over his body, “Let us never forget him.”

Maria has been told about her husband’s death. She stumbles outside the prison in grief, eventually breaking into wails of sorrow. She is immediately surrounded by other women as she hollers out that they have killed her husband. The old man and Zito help lead her away. She is taken to Mama Tete’s, where all the women join in her grief, but also remind her that she still has her son to thing about.

At the Saturday night party, we see all the movement activists, dancing to lively music, eating, socializing. Chico, Miguel, Miguel’s mother and sister, Mussunda, and even Timoteo and the white engineer Sylvester are there. Zito and the old man arrive. They tell the others that Domingos has been beaten to death. Mussunda, Zito, the old man, Chico, and Miguel stand in a circle and frieve, while the cheerful music plays in the background. Mussunda goes up on the stage, stops the music, and tells those gathered that Domingos Xavier has been killed. He asks that they continue their celebration, because in fact they have much to feel joyful about: Domingos behaved like a true nationalist and said nothing about the Movement. It is both a day of mourning and a day of joy, they say, for Domingos and his wife Maria. Today, says Mussunda, Xavier Domingos begins his real life, in the hearts of the Angolan people. The music and dancing resume.

At the oceanside near Domingos’ village, a group of his fellow construction workers are told of Domingos’ death. They are also urged to carry on his work, because activists in the countryside are needed to support the movement’s efforts in the cities. They are also told that the Movement is planning to liberate the prisoners at the prison where Domingos had been held, the prison of Sambizanga, on February 4.

1.19GB | 1h 42mn | 640×480 | mkv


Language(s):Portuguese & Kimbundu
Subtitles:English (hardcoded)

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