Sambizanga (film)

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Directed by Sarah Maldoror
Screenplay by Mário Coelho Pinto de Andrade, Maurice Pons, Sarah Maldoror
Running time
102 minutes
Country Angola
Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)
Language Portuguese

Sambizanga is a 1972 film by director Sarah Maldoror. Set in 1961 at the onset of the Angolan War of Independence, it follows the struggles of Angolan militants involved with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), an anti-colonial political movement of which Maldoror's husband, Mário Coelho Pinto de Andrade, was a leader. The film is based on the novella A vida verdadeira de Domingos Xavier ("The Real Life of Domingos Xavier") by Angolan writer José Luandino Vieira.


The film was shot on location in the People's Republic of Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) in seven weeks.[1]


Sambizanga is the name of the working-class neighbourhood in Luanda where a Portuguese prison was located to which many Angolan militants were taken to be tortured and killed.[2] On February 4, 1961, this prison was attacked by MPLA forces.[3]

The film begins with the arrest of Angolan revolutionary Domingos Xavier by Portuguese colonial officials. Xavier is taken to the prison in Sambizanga where he is at risk of being tortured to death for not giving the Portuguese the names of his fellow dissidents. The film follows Xavier's wife, Maria, who searches from jail to jail trying to discover what has become of her husband.[citation needed]


Most of the actors were non-professionals who were in some ways involved with African anti-colonial movements, such as the MPLA and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).[4] The character of Domingos Xavier was played by an Angolan exile living in Congo, Domingos Oliveira and the character of Maria was played by economist Elisa Andrade from Cape Verde[5]


Michael Kerbel writing in The Village Voice compared Sambizanga to Soviet Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin in terms of its political significance.[6] Only after the Carnation Revolution was the film able to be released in Portugal on October 19, 1974.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Gugler, Josef (2003). African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent. Indiana University Press. pp. 55–56. 
  2. ^ "Review of Sambizanga". World Cinema Directory. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Dembrow, Michael. "Sambizanga and Sarah Maldoror". Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank (1994). Black African Cinema. University of California Press. pp. 233–235. 
  5. ^ Gugler, Josef (2003). African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent. Indiana University Press. pp. 55–56. 
  6. ^ Kerbel, Michael (December 6, 1973). "Angola: Brutality & betrayal". The Village Voice. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 

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