3 Stars
Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 97 minutes
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The overcrowded and short-supplied city of Luanda, Angola is recovering from almost 30 years of civil war. “The Hero” examines how the war affected many different lives, both in the battlefield and in the city. Director Zézé Gamboa cuts between the stories of two characters—one a soldier who lost his leg in the war, the other a boy whose father left many years ago to fight and will probably never come back—and finds several other personalities from the underworld, elite and in between in the process.

Released from the hospital after shaming his doctor into finally giving him an prosthetic leg, Vitório walks the city and finds that his new disability prevents him from finding a job. He gets money from selling his crutches and getting a cane and finds comfort in prostitutes in a strip club, but has yet to obtain a normal life after 20 years of fighting. Manu’s (Milton “Santo” Coelho) loving grandmother does his best to take care of him, but he longs for a father figure and is getting into trouble and not studying in school. At first the crosscutting suggests that Vitório could be Manu’s father, but that would be too simple a solution for the problems war has caused. The two characters both experience falls from grace, as Manu discovers the city’s crime ring and Vitório calmly learns that despite his service, no one wants him around to remind them of the war.

The plot is a bit disjointed and the film occasionally delves into some obvious melodrama, but overall is an interesting examination of the affect of war on the people of Angola and how different people deal with it. Even if some plot strings were pulled to bring Vitório to where he is at the end, the film is honest in its depiction of a place whose people will only get what they want if there’s an advantage to a politician who gives it to them. Gamboa captures Luanda with natural direction that adds realism to the piece with a combination of strong storytelling and matter-of-fact, unforced camera work.

Posted on January 23, 2005 in Reviews by

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