Sambizanga + Intro 1972
Sarah Maldoror / 102 mins / Portuguese, Lingala and Kimbundu / Rating 15
Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga is set in 1961, at the start of the Angolan War of Independence from Portuguese colonialism. The film follows Maria as she searches for her husband, Domingos, who has been caught by Portuguese colonial police and thrown in jail for his participation in the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and his subversive activities. Maria travels on foot with their baby on her back, trying desperately to free Domingos and keep her family together. Unfortunately for Domingos and Maria, their story ends in tragedy. Elisa Andrade, who also appeared in Maldoror’s short film Monangambée (1968), powerfully portrays Maria. Together, Andrade and Maldoror create in Maria a symbol of the emerging consciousness of the Angolan people and, specifically, of the pivotal role of women in the revolution.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Sarah Maldoror was born in 1939 in Candou, France. A Guadeloupean of African descent, she is respectfully regarded as the matriarch of African cinema (she was the first woman of colour to make a feature film).
For her, filmmaking was a weapon for struggle and liberation from the very beginning of her experiences in cinema. Though before embarking on a career in filmmaking, she co-founded the theatre group Compagnie d’Art Dramatique des Griots in Paris in 1956. She left the company in the early 1960s to study cinema in the Soviet Union, at VGIK in Moscow on a scholarship—there she met Ousmane Sembène, who was also studying at the time.
Her 1968 debut film, Monagambée, which examines torture techniques used by the French in the Algerian war, was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 1971. The following year she made her emblematic œuvre, Sambizanga, which relates a woman’s experience during the Angola liberation struggle. The film shared the prestigious Tanit d’Or prize at the Carthage Film Festival that same year.
Pioneer, trailblazer, mentor, Sarah Maldoror had this to say in an interview with Jadot Sezirahiga: “African women must be everywhere. They must be in the images, behind the camera, in the editing room and involved in every stage of the making of a film. They must be the ones to talk about their problems”.
Maldoror's work is often included in studies of the role of African women in African cinema.
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Restored in 4K from the original 35mm negatives. Colour grading was supervised by Annouchka De Andrade and cinematographer Jean-François Robin. With special thanks to Annouchka De Andrade and Henda Ducados.
Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Image Retrouvée in association with Éditions René Chateau and the family of Sarah Maldoror. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. This restoration is part of the African Film Heritage Project, an initiative created by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO—in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna—to help locate, restore, and disseminate African cinema.