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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Zeze Gamboa
California Newsreel Spring 2005 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Everyday life is a struggle in Luanda, capital of Angola where a thirty -year civil war has left its mark on the souls of the people. On a television program called "Meeting Place," men and women, young and old, hold up pictures of their loved ones and plea for help in finding them. Work is hard to find, electricity goes on and off sporadically, food and medical supplies are scarce, and old women still must walk long distances to get water. The city is filled with refugees and veterans who exist in a twilight zone. The countryside is littered with dangerous landmines, and the government has bee able to do very little toward removing them. Many families cannot return to their homes.
Vitorio (Oumar Makena Diop) is a war veteran who lost his leg when a landmine exploded under him. After much squabbling with the bureaucrats at a government hospital, he is given a prosthetic leg. But Vitorio has no luck in finding a job since most supervisors only want able bodied men. He ends up sleeping on the street. When his prosthetic leg is stolen, he plunges into a whirlpool of despair. Luckily, Judite (Maria Ceica), a prostitute who lost her son years ago, befriends him and gives him shelter.
Ten-year-old Manu (Milton Coelho) lives with his grandmother, Flora (Neusa Borges). His mother abandoned him, and his father went away to war years ago and has never returned. Although Manu is one of the smartest boys in the school, his teacher, Joana (Patricia Bull), is worried about his lack of interest in studying. He and some of his street buddies have formed their own gang of thieves to steal bike parts and car radios. This gets him into trouble with Caca (Nelo Helder), a violent thug who doesn't want anyone else on his turf.
First-time feature director Zeze Gamboa has fashioned a compelling and richly developed drama that brings three of the main characters together and opens up new possibilities for each of them. Joana meets Vitorio at the hospital and is deeply moved by the hardships he has endured. She has recently re-established contact with Pedro (Raul Rosario), a rich young man who has just returned from his studies abroad and is going to work for his uncle, a Minister in the government. Joana's idea is to put Vitorio on the radio with a plea for the return of his artificial leg. Manu finds himself drawn into the life of the war veteran, but thankfully it is in a beneficial way for both of them.
The Hero is an emotionally involving drama that realistically shows how a little kindness on the part of those in power can result in miraculous changes in the lives of those who are without hope or the resources to transform their own lives. Harriet Beecher Stowe has observed, "To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization." This film illustrates the truth of this observation with its convincing depiction of Vitorio's perseverance, Joana's empathy, Manu's hopefulness, and the simple heroism of his grandmother who makes lugging water into a spiritual act.
Screened at the 34th New Directors/New Films Festival, New York
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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