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Hollow City More at IMDbPro »Na Cidade Vazia (original title)

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Fine, unusual feature from a largely-ignored African country

Author: luiza do brasil from São Paulo, Brazil
20 October 2004

This film caught my attention at the recent Rio Film Festival just because it came from Angola, a country rarely seen in the movies. After the civil war ended, and news subsided about the terrible land mine situation in the country (both themes addressed in the film), this large oil-rich, and relatively Westernized African country seemed to disappear from the scene. In cinema, only some Angolan characters are frequent in Portuguese films. But we never see the country itself, except on TV here in Brazil due to extensive cultural, linguistic, and increasingly economic ties.

All that said, the film presents a poignant story about a boy molded by the civil war in his country. As he journey's through Luanda, the capital of Angola, we discover a city and people who are not very different from those in a similar-sized Latin American city. We find a very Westernized society, much more so than the native African ones in Johannesburg or Cape Town. People only speak Portuguese amongst themselves exclusively (no native tribal tongues), and their habits and values are as globalized as anywhere else - definitely much more than in the rest of Africa. The buildings, layout of the city, apartments, homes and lifestyle of several socio-economic classes seem more like the Eastern Europe we see in art films than Africa. At least in Luanda and in the large cities of Angola.

Through the different characters and locations in the country's capital, the director gives us excellent insight to life in Angola's capital. Yes, from her point of view, but I understand she's held in great respect there, and known for fair portrayals of her country. For that alone, the film is an unusual treat and definitely worth seeing.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Not a bad movie, but drags on a bit at times

Author: rickyr83 from Maryland
31 August 2006

"Na Cidade Vazia" (Hollow City) effectively shows the destitution and the ruggedness of life in Luanda, Angola's capital. Our main character, N'Dala, is a wide-eyed, lost little boy in the big city, walking around with his "brinquedo" (toy) and meeting different characters. The premise isn't bad but it could be a little more interesting and better executed. At times the film just seems to drag with no purpose, rhyme or reason.

The side plot with the boy and the legend of the great Angolan warrior was a decent attempt at symbolism but it didn't pan out all the way. The ending is a bit unbelievable and off-beat as well.

The best thing about this film is that it shows the world Angola's small, but promising film industry. The country is one that has been torn apart by war and tragedy and there are plenty of stories to be told. I'm looking forward to Maria João Ganga's next film.

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Angola's past and future

Author: Lee Eisenberg ( from Portland, Oregon, USA
20 February 2015

Angola was a Portuguese colony for almost 500 years. The António Salazar-Marcelo Caetano military junta waged its own Vietnam War against Angola and Mozambique (referenced by Ethiopia's Haile Selassie in a 1968 speech, which Bob Marley turned into the song "War"). These wars drained Portugal's economy, and a small army overthrew the junta in 1974 and proceeded to give the colonies their independence. After the US suffered a humiliating defeat in Vietnam, Henry Kissinger decided to start another war just so that the US could look tough. Aligned with South Africa's apartheid government, the CIA backed warlord Jonas Savimbi. Cuban troops came in to back a different faction that was vying for power. In the context of this, soon-to-be lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked with South Africa's government to film a propaganda movie in Angola. Cuban and South African troops withdrew in the late 1980s, but the fighting continued until Savimbi's assassination in 2002.

Maria João Ganga's "Na cidade vazia" ("Hollow City" in English) looks at Angola in the wake of its devastating civil war. Told through the eyes of a boy wandering the streets of Luanda after his village got massacred, we see a society trying to pick itself back up. Even the poorest families try to make their residences look pretty. Nonetheless, Luanda is probably the closest connection that this boy to the outside world. He meanders through the city with a toy made of string while the children in the group from which he escaped act out a play about a heroic soldier. More adventures await him.

It's a really good movie. I like seeing movies that show us cultures that we rarely see. Even beyond that, it's a reminder of what happened there. I recommend it.

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simply superb

Author: ian-dodkins
10 February 2013

I watch some African cinema (my girlfriend is Angolan) and I lived in Portugal, so I have some insight into the culture of Luanda. For me this was really a fantastic piece of work: beautifully produced, subtle but not artsy. It painted a picture of Luanda (in the past) without exaggeration and didn't delve into any 'ah, poor Africans' type stupidity. It was a simple tale of a 12 year old boy escaping the war torn countryside to Luanda and the friendships he has with people, and how he gently influences their lives. Another critic said that the parallel with the story of a warrior (mentioned in the film) was not complete, but really, it would have been a cheesy Hollywood movie if it had been. Also, the ending may not give a sense of finality, but that was part of the beautiful message of the film. It is extremely well crafted, with simple scenes of the fisherman smiling at the boy, or his friend washing his godmothers clothes, that lights up this film with such richness. Even the subtle cultural aspects, like the Kizomba dancing in the evening, and just their way of being, is so natural.

This is the best African film I have seen, and probably within the top 8 films I have seen in my life.

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