Review: War-Torn Angola Claims its Right to Rock in 'Death Metal Angola' (New on iTunes)
Photo Credit: S & A

Review: War-Torn Angola Claims its Right to Rock in 'Death Metal Angola' (New on iTunes)

Death Metal Angola

For any given subculture, there are assumptions about who

the true arbiters and fans of that group should be. There are rules about who

can play – the same rules that made teenage metal band Unlocking

The Truth such an oddity and a sensation, because many simply don’t see young

black boys from Brooklyn as the face of heavy metal music.

Feature documentary "Death Metal Angola"

turns this idea on its head as it spotlights a group of rockers and metal

enthusiasts a world away from the music’s roots in Europe and the United

States. Amid a nation ravaged by generations of war and internal conflict, the

subgenre of death metal is used as an emotional outlet and in fact, a healing

tool, for the people of Angola.

The film follows Sonia Ferreira and Wilker Flores, a couple who

work together to produce Angola’s first-ever national rock concert in capital

Luanda, as Sonia says, "to clear out the debris from all these years of

war." Juxtaposed with plans to put together the event – a logistical and

financial feat in itself – is the story of Okutiuka, an orphanage that Sonia

runs in Huambo. The film explains that the war has cost some 500,000 lives in

Angola, which has devastated families and specifically, left 55 children under her


In interviews with Sonia and the wards of Okutiuka we hear

of homelessness, poverty and extreme violence suffered by children as young as

toddlers. But what could easily be a gloomy story turns to one of hope and redemption.

While Sonia stands in as a parental figure for the children, Wilker, an avid

musician and rock fan, teaches them the art of death metal. Though the gutteral

growls, heavy bass lines and morbid lyrics seem foreign at first, they quickly

become contextualized in light of the daily atrocities that Angolans face. Citizens,

young and old, take to the music as an emotional release and in this way, death

metal seems even more appropriate than it would in the west, as they know and

have seen firsthand the "death" that they sing about.

Visually, the film finds a way to be artful with the most

basic of backdrops, creating somewhat of a mosaic from the peeling paint and

raw fronts of buildings. Performance scenes with local bands like Before Crush

provide the film’s gritty soundtrack and add to the overall tone.

The film is touching at times, but overall exposes audiences

to a little-known phenomenon – how one community has found an entertaining way

to cope with, and overcome, their trauma. "Death Metal Angola" is a

worthwhile watch, screening now at New

York’s Cinema Village and also available

on iTunes

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2023 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.