Sambizanga. 1972. Angola/France. Directed by Sarah Maldoror. With Elisa Andrade, Domingos de Oliveira. 16mm. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 102 min.
Based on The Real Life of Domingos Xavier, a novella about a political prisoner’s brutalization during the Angolan revolution, Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga is a groundbreaking drama focused on the arduous struggle of Domingos’s wife Maria, whom he has kept in the dark about his activism. After Domingos’s kidnapping, Maria bravely searches for him on foot, with their baby on her back, pressing on to preserve their family. The breadth of Maria’s emotions are viscerally expressed by Cape Verdean economist and actor Elisa Andrade (who also appeared in Maldoror’s 1969 short Monagambée, an anti-colonial documentary filmed in Algiers). Together, Andrade and Maldoror make Maria a symbol of the emerging consciousness of the Angolan people, and, specifically, of women’s critical role in the revolution. Maldoror, who cowrote the screenplay with her husband, Mário Pinto de Andrade, a prominent leader of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, said of the film, “What I wanted to show in Sambizanga is the aloneness of a woman and the time it takes to march....” Winner of the Tanit d’or at the 1972 Carthage Film Festival.
Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts