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Laramie Movie Scope:
Death Metal Angola

Heavy metal in the African heartland

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 30, 2014 -- Sometimes I tend to forget how much American culture affects the rest of the world. When you see a kid in war-torn Huambo, Angola, Africa trying to learn to pronounce the name of the actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, it brings that home. Another thing that brings it home is to see the healing influence of extreme heavy metal music in this same town, as shown in this documentary film.

Death metal is a dark, hard-driving, angry brand of heavy metal music in which the singers use “Death Growls,” a kind of snarled, raspy vocal style (kind of like Pirate speech) which rises to screaming at times. This extreme kind of music seems to not only convey the anger and pain of loss of these wounded people, but it serves as a kind of healing release.

The two main characters in the movie, Sonia and Wilker are the heart and soul of Huambo. Sonia acts as mother and counselor to many orphans from the brutal civil war that lasted from 1975 to 2002 and devastated most of the country, including Huambo. Sonia's kindness to these children is inspirational. Wilker is a dedicated musician who is determined to hold the first post-war rock concert in Huambo. Other nearby towns have tried, but failed to do this.

The film includes a number of interviews of people who talk about the terrible civil war, and the involvement of the United States and Soviet Union in that war. A deadly legacy of the war are thousands of land mines left in the ground. The film shows a man marking off a mine field with stakes and signs. People in the film all talk of friends, family and loved ones lost in the war.

There is a discussion by musicians in the film about the origins of death metal in Scandinavia and how the chord changes in the music are similar to those in classical music and native African music as well. As the bands gather for the outdoor concert it is easy to see that the crowds are really into this music. It speaks to them.

The film ends with a montage of Angolan youths playing air guitar and dancing wildly to the death metal music. It is a very unusual tribute to the healing power of music. There is also some footage of a second concert, a year after the first one, which appears far more successful, with much bigger crowds. After this movie was made, a drought hit this area, causing a food shortage, but it seems to have escaped the Ebola outbreak, so far, at least. This film rates a B. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)