Tuesday, April 24, 2007


1998, France/Germany/Belgium, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

While all of his work to date has an autobiographical resonance - one which has moved toward the background more recently - Abderrahmane Sissako's documentary feature Rostov-Luanda embraces this theme most explicitly, recounting Sissako's search for a friend from the time he spent in the Soviet Union, a man who has apparently returned to Angola, and whom he has not seen for many years. It's an idea similar to that explored in Henri-François Imbert's 2000 documentary Doulaye, une saison des pluies, about a friend of the filmmaker's father, but Sissako's film also becomes a rich meditation on contemporary Angola, a country still embedded, at the time, in a lengthy civil war, as the idea of finding a long-lost friend in such circumstances begins to seem ever-more improbable.

The film also establishes the template for Sissako's subsequent fiction features, with its deep interest in the minutiae of the everyday, as well as the manner in which it gives voice to people who rarely find themselves able to articulate their views. The stories - from Angolans, longtime Portuguese settlers, or those who find themselves somewhere between the two - create an absorbing, unsentimental tapestry of a country whose people have remained remarkably resilient despite decades of conflict, and whose senses of hospitality and humour have endured the most trying of circumstances.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States