28th November 2020
By Sharon Thomas for our Africa in Motion's Notes Unbound
Produced by Geração 80, the Angolan Air Conditioner (2020) is director Fradique’s first fiction feature. The film weaves a dream-like narrative following a few moments in the life of Matacedo (José Kiteculo), an ex-veteran turned security guard. Around the same time, an extreme heatwave strikes the country, AC’s mysteriously begin to fall from walls, and people begin to suffer the consequences of the unbearable climate that seems impossible to combat due to the limited access to vital resources. Through an array of sweeping and tracking shots, the camera follows Matacedo’s journey as he makes his way through dilapidated buildings and the bustling streets of Luanda in fulfilment of a task set by his employer.
Air Conditioner opens with a stunning collection of black and white portraits by Angolan photographer Cafuxi, which immediately set the atmosphere and tone of the urban setting and landscape to be explored throughout the film. In fact, the buildings seem to take on a life of their own as they accompany or perhaps even guide Matacedo on his journey through staircases, hallways, courtyards, alleyways, and neighbouring streets.
The narrative unfolds alongside reoccurring broadcast radio transmissions playing in the background of the diagetic, in which we learn that people with lower income are disproportionately affected by the falling air-con units - causing unnecessary and avoidable deaths. The government’s response to prevent the occurrences from happening remains minimal, and any effects of the minor efforts made to improve the situation cannot be felt by the general population. Left to their own devices, highly elaborate machines are invented and built just in order to recreate fleeting moments of temporary relief. Resources are scarce, and people are left to their own devices to salvage and rebuild what they can while being distantly aware of a particular ‘something’ which remains lost in time, and that can never be fully restored.
In addition to raising questions on social class and politics, Air Conditioner serves as a reflection of the ‘inheritance’ left to the exploited in the wake of colonialism. Angola, which was colonised by the Portuguese in the 17th Century, carries a history marked by resulting wars such as the 13-year War of Independence which occurred from the 1960s into the 70s, and the following 27-year-old civil war lasting from 1975-2002. Collective memories are engrained within our bodies and passed on through generations. However, the cities we live in are built on the very same memories - memories which can be found within the structures of each building and their occupants. Rundown and burdened by infrastructural problems creating unequal access to vital resources such as water and electricity, buildings seem to take on the role of a main character in Fradique’s surreal tale and serve as an allegory to the ways in which memories ,especially cultural memories, are shaped by the few who can afford to uphold them.
Air Conditioner’s magic lies within its mysterious subtlety. Audiences are guaranteed different interpretations as they are guided through dream-like sequences containing mesmerising visuals, lights, and colours. A beautiful melange of musical genres including rap, classical music, national anthems, jazz, and distorted soundscapes, bring the urban scenes to life and help distil meaning throughout the film, informing its listeners on contextual details vital to the full appreciation of the images themselves. The soundtrack to the film, produced and partially composed by Aline Frazão, acts as the perfect representation of the dystopic ambience of the viewing experience.
There is an elusive quality present throughout the film. Almost as if though there is something the viewer is challenged to capture, yet despite the best of efforts is bound to keep missing - a shadow, a train of thought, a flicker of light, a life-saving breeze.
Poetic, surreal, and entirely lyrical.
Air Conditioner is Africa in Motion’s closing night film and is accompanied by short film Up At Night. Both films are screening from 28th November at 7pm and will be followed by a digital celebration featuring DJ Maveen to round off AiM’s 2020 festival run.
Sharon Thomas is a recently graduated, Swiss-American, Glasgow-based Film Curation Postgrad with a passion for all things film, TV, and theatre. Involved in programming, event planning, and marketing, she has worked and volunteered for an array of screen-related organisations and festivals such as Africa in Motion, Take One Action, the Edinburgh International TV Festival, and Screen Queensland. Growing up in a variety of countries and cultures has shaped her interests in many ways, and she continues to strive to help create a more inclusive future within the Arts - a place where people from all different backgrounds can come together, learn, and grow.