31 January 2009

An evening at the, um, "movies"

I was excited. This was my second weekend in Benguela and since the first consisted largely of seeking refuge from the afternoon heat in the house, I was determined to be more social. I don’t know many people here yet, so I spend a lot of time alone on the weekends. I also don’t have transportation, so my travels are limited to where my feet feel like taking me. In order to break the ennui, I decided on Saturday that my feet would take me to the beachside bar where I could read and enjoy a caipiroska (or two) while watching the sunset. It wasn’t a bad plan, and I had fun.

On the way there I stopped by the Cinema building to see what might be on offer, in hopes that I could extend my evening via some kind of passive entertainment. I knew that sometimes they held live plays there and about once a month they even showed movies. This was my weekend, it seemed, because they were advertising a movie that very night and the following Sunday. It was an Angolan-produced film, which only served to increase my curiosity.

After the sunset I raced home to change clothes and head back out to the theatre. I was a little worried about showing up 10 minutes late, but when I got there it turns out they decided not to show the film that night. “Tomorrow” was the answer I got from the only two people I could find near the entrance to the theatre. So much for my Saturday night at the movies…

Sunday was a new day and I was not about to give up on my quest to see this month’s movie event. I showed up at about 10 minutes before the advertised time of 6:40pm and was told they weren’t selling tickets yet, so I just sat on the steps and waited. Around 6:45pm they let me buy a ticket (1000 AKz, or $13.33) and I stepped inside the cavernous two-level 2,000 seat theatre. I should have known I was in for something outside the normal movie-going experience when I asked to use the bathroom before the show and was led to a side room with a quarter inch of standing water. I tiptoed into a stall and raised the toilet seat, at which time the compartment above the toilet that holds the water fell off the wall. There wasn’t any water in it thankfully (apparently it had found its way to the floor already), and I race tip-toed outta there as quickly as possible.

Back in the cavern I picked a seat about 4 rows back from the front and sat down in anticipation of the show. Some disco music was playing in the side speakers lending a festive atmosphere, but I looked around and noticed that I was completely alone, surrounded by 1,999 empty seats. Around 7:15pm the show finally started, apparently just for me. And the army of mosquitos surrounding me. I took to slapping them as best I could but it was a fool’s effort, and lucky for me the mosquito parade lasted the entire show. Did I mention there was no air conditioning and the temperature in the theatre was a balmy few degrees hotter than it was outside? Good times for all.

The film (oh, right! I came to see a movie!) was called “Dimo and the Home for Boys” and I braced myself for some serious content when the film was dedicated to abused children during the opening credits. The movie opened with the story of a young boy that preferred art to fishing, which apparently was problem enough for his father to try to kill him first by drowning him and then by chasing him out of town with a machete.

At this point in the plot the power cut out, and I was sitting alone in the cave unable to see anything. The lights came back on after a minute, but the outage required the viewing audience (i.e. me) to re-watch the first 20 minutes of the horribly depressing plot (apparently advancing the DVD to the place where we left off was too difficult).

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse the two technical employees that had previously been running the show from the balcony decided to sit and watch the movie from below. Proving Murphy’s Law infallable, they chose to sit directly across the aisle from me, and proceeded to talk through the entire movie. I got up and moved to the front row to focus on the show.

The rest of the plot involved Dimo (the kid with the infanticidal father) getting picked up by a truck driver who takes him to Luanda. While there, Dimo lives at a home for abandoned kids and eventually his talent as an artist is discovered. His father chases him to Luanda and, upon realizing how others appreciate his son’s talent, asks forgiveness and reconciles with the young boy. At least it had a happy ending. I walked home.

Can't wait for next month's show!

Proof of Purchase:


Panda!!!! said...

Does Angola have an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?

Peripatetic Life said...

I asked my Angolan cultural attaché in Luanda and it turns out they have not one but three:

1)ADECINA - Associação do desenvolvimento do cinema em Angola

2)Cinematec de Angola

3)IACAM - Instituto Angolano de Cinema, Audiovisual e Multimedia

I'm guessing the latter more closely aligns with the "academy" in the US. To be honest I don't know what any of these organizations actually do, but the Angolan film industry does seem to be growing (there was a grand total of one Angolan-produced film in the Thunderbird library, so admittedly they're growing from a small base).