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    The Hero

    Walking wounded

    A bit forced but heartfelt, the Angolan film "The Hero" airs some of the serious social problems of the physical and emotional wounds that war leaves behind.


    The hero in "The Hero" is not one anymore. Today, having lost one leg to a land mine and waited months for a prosthesis, he walks past signs that say "NO JOBS" and wonders if this is what he gets for his 20 years fighting the Angola war.

    Directed by: Zz Gamboa.
    Written by: Pierre-Marie Goulet, Carla Baptista.
    Cast: Neuza Borges, Patrcia Bull, Maria Ceia, Milton "Santo" Coelho, Makena Diop, Prospero Joao, Ral Rosrio.
    In Portuguese with English subtitles.
    Walter Reade Theater Lincoln Center, 65th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam (212) 875-5600 Wed March 23 at 8pm Museum of Modern Art 53rd St. (between 5th and 6th Ave.) (212) 708-9400 Thu March 24 at 6pm

    New Directors / New Films 2005
    • Overview
    • The Hero
    • Private
    • South of the Clouds
    • Official site
    He's officially a hero. He carries a government document officially attesting to the fact, which he thrusts in the face of a foreman at a construction site.

    "You're a hero," the foreman admits, "but I need normal men."

    This Angolan film is hardly perfect — the writing is somewhat awkward, and the acting is forced, by Western standards. (Most disconcerting is the lead performance by Makena Diop, a Senegalese actor who delivers his lines in French and is dubbed into Portuguese.) But it succeeds in its essential purpose: showing all the ways the country's people are broken by war and venturing a vision of how it can be put back together. As an awareness-raiser, it is certainly worthwhile.

    Through the literally wounded Vitorio, we also encounter a number of other "wounded" characters. Judite is a bartender slash hostess slash seamstress slash comfort girl, propelled into a self-destructive life after the disappearance of her 12-year-old son, possibly kidnapped into combat years before. When she goes to a park to stand in the line of relatives of the disappeared to plead for information about her boy, she uses her real name, Maria Barbara, instead of her "nom de guerre."

    Meanwhile, Manu, a boy just slightly older than her missing son, is drawn into the story's web when the old soldier's leg goes missing and winds up in the kid's possession. He lives with his curmudgeonly grandmother since his parents disappeared, and he's growing up in a hornet's nest of angry, violent, parentless kids where gangs are a constant threat.

    Director Zz Gamboa and writers Pierre-Marie Goulet and Carla Baptista want us to know certain things about their postwar country, and despite the film's obviousness, it does tell meaningful stories. It illustrates the many ways war rends society — not only the deaths but the ruined economy, the once-strong men returning maimed and the children growing up parentless and rootless. And it ends with a sense of hope that Angolans will find ways to put their shattered selves back together.

    MARCH 23, 2005

    Reader comments on The Hero:

  • Good Movie   from Hassim Smith, May 3, 2007
  • [no subject]   from dragan sutalo, Jul 16, 2009
  • Re: [no subject]   from tay, Sep 30, 2009

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