Remembrance through sounds and images “I Accept the Challenge”
Filmmaker Fradique‘s documentary “Independência” (2015) tells Angola‘s long struggle for freedom from the perspective of the first person plural. The film unearths striking historical material of freedom fighters and creates a space for oral testimonies. It manifests never-recorded events in animated drawings. It provides an overwhelming dismantling of the heinous colonial presumption that Angola would not belong to Angolans. Remembrance through sounds and images – here, Fradique illustrates his method via four film stills.
When, in March 1961, war began in Angola, the Portuguese government sent thousands of soldiers. It simultaneously released the hymn Angola is Ours, a propaganda song that opened and closed radio broadcasts and which children in schools across the country had to sing.
Angola is Ours featured in many propaganda films of the time, in which the Portuguese government flaunted its powerful army and suggested how happy people in Angola were under Portuguese rule. I created a montage, linking the song to the usual propagandistic representations but adding images of the harsh reality underneath these pretences of well-being: forced labour, spatial segregation of Angolans in their own country as well as the racism they suffered at the hands of the Portuguese.
The montage ends with archive footage of numerous Angolans staring at the camera, together with the freedom fighters – whom we interviewed in the present day – also staring at the camera while listening to Angola is Ours. The song remains abhorrent to many Angolans who were subjected to the Portuguese exploitation, occupation and oppression.
A police interrogation or an ambush – to portray moments like these where no archive footage exists, my film uses animations together with first-hand testimonies by Angolan freedom fighters.
The film is made from the point of view of the generation that participated in the struggle for independence; they are the ones sharing their memories. The point of view of the animation follows the same logic. I wanted to show an interrogation from the perspective and at eye level of a political prisoner.
In this moment of the film, Frederico Luís Colombo, an Angolan political prisoner whom PIDE held captive from 1961 to 1969, details how police agents questioned him. We only listen to Colombo’s version of the interrogation. PIDE does not have any agency, a voice of their own, anymore. Even when they interrogate him, we only hear Colombo quote their questions, his voice and memory of what happened in that room.
The narrative and aesthetics of the film are very much based on my experience during my years of research in the archive of the Tchiweka Documentation Centre (Associação Tchiweka de Documentação) in Luanda. After living amid the archive materials and the memories of those who gave testimonies, I decided to combine every possible archival format to bring the audience closer to our shrouded history.
The screenshot is taken from a sequence where the voice of Ernesto “Che” Guevara resounds, recorded on 2 January 1965 in Brazzaville when he met with Angolan freedom fighters. This recording is a unique historical source, which we digitized, restored and made publicly available to a wider audience for the first time in Independência.
With the photographs, freedom fighters in the Eastern part of Angola documented the hardest times of the war when food, clothes and weapons were scarce. But, even then, young men and women adapted to their environment and carried on with the struggle.
Deolinda Rodrigues’ testimony constitutes the only one in my film that was written during the time of the struggle itself. She was a MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola) freedom fighter but didn’t live to see Angola gain its independence. Yet she left her intimate, brutally honest journals and letters.
“I like difficulties, without moments like this, life becomes insipid and we stop thinking. Life is a struggle. Either you accept the challenge and move forward or you feel sorry for yourself your whole life and do nothing. I accept the challenge.”
Deolinda, also known as Langidila (“Be vigilant” in Kimbundu)
These are the last known photographs of Deolinda before her death at the hands of a rival group. The pictures were taken when she re-entered Angola to join the armed struggle after having fought and campaigned from neighbouring Congo as a revolutionary leader. This roll of film was highly damaged when we found it and, like many other archive materials in the film, we restored and digitized it for the very first time.