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The Truth of the Place: Death Metal Angola’s Jeremy Xido Interviewed


One of the best documentaries made in the last year–and arguably one of the best documentaries made about music in Africa ever–is Death Metal Angola. The film takes place in Huambo, a once-magisterial city left in ruins at the end of the country’s brutal civil war during the 1990s. In the middle of the city, Sonia Ferreira and her partner Wilker Flores run an orphanage for young boys, and spend their free time enmeshed in the nation’s growing death metal rock scene. The movie focuses on the couple’s attempt to put on Angola’s first national death metal concert, bringing together a far-flung community for the first time. 

Sam Backer: Let’s start by having you introduce yourself.

Jeremy Xido: I am Jeremy Xido, the director of Death Metal Angola. We are sitting here in the offices of Afropop in the dark on a day when there’s no electricity. [There had been a brief power outage.] Which, weirdly enough, reminds me a lot of working in Angola. Because we would consistently have the electricity go off in the middle of shoots, or there would sometimes be concerts with the metal musicians that would start off as electric concerts and end as acoustic concerts. Just because the electrical grid is so compromised–or was at the time–so this actually feels quite familiar in a weird way to be talking about the film and the experiences in this environment.

I guess let’s start from the top. I’m sure you’ve told the story a lot.

I’ve told the story a lot and it’s become almost canonized to the point where some of the producers can, in Q&As at theaters around the world, actually mock me from the back of the room–almost speaking word for word. But this is the story: I came across the movie and the topic for the movie by accident. I was in Angola, working on a completely different film. I was researching a film about Chinese construction workers rebuilding a railroad line through the middle of Angola, and, at the time, the line basically stopped in or before this town Huambo, which had been one of the jewels in the crown of the old empire that had been there, and was even the capital for one year in its history. And Huambo actually had suffered perhaps some of the gravest calamities of the nearly 40 years of war. The train stopped before Huambo and I got out and I wanted a cup of coffee really badly, and, according to everyone, there’s only one cafe in the town that served a decent cup of coffee, called the Imperial. And it happened to be in the center of town, and it was in pristine shape, surrounded by a number of bombed-out buildings in a sort of garden. There’s a patio in the cafe and I sat down to have my coffee. And there’s a young gentleman maybe 10 feet away sitting at another table, who waved at me, so I waved back. And he’s dressed in a blue button-down oxford shirt and little dreadlocks–quite conservative looking. He waved me over and I came over and brought my cup of coffee and sat down with him. We started talking and he asked me what I was doing. I said, “Oh, I’m making a movie about Chinese construction workers rebuilding the Benguela railroad line. I asked, “What do you do?” And he said, “I’m a musician.” I asked, “What do you play?” And he said, “Death metal.”

I was flummoxed, confused for a moment, and he said, “Yeah, I play death metal.” I said, “Can I hear you play? Will you play for me? Are you playing at any point?” And he said, “Yeah, absolutely.” He gave me an address, and said, “Meet me at the orphanage.” Which I assumed was a club. So I invited some of the Chinese construction workers that I had been working with to join me to go see this rock concert at the club “The Orphanage.” And we arrived in the middle of the night to a bombed-out milk factory in the middle of this sort of shanty town neighborhood. There was no electricity, sort of like here in the office. It was a day where the generator had ceased to function. So, there was Wilker, who I had met at the cafe, siphoning electricity from his neighbors, whose generator was working, and he was able to get a long enough cable to plug in his amplifier, but not a microphone. There were no lights, so we lit it with the headlights of the SUV of the Chinese construction workers. Wilker began to play this incredible open-air concert. Just harrowing sounds in the open air with these shadows of children running around everywhere. We had no idea what was going on. And that was sort of the introduction to the music and to this world.

It wasn’t until a year later, however, when I was going to go back to continue working on the train film, that I called up Wilker and Sonia, his partner who actually runs the orphanage, called Okutiuka, to find out if they were going to be in town because I thought they’d be an interesting stop on this train film. They got really excited and they said, “That’s fantastic that you’re coming because we’re organizing the first-ever national rock concert and you’re going to film it.” So I take the inception of the film really as commission from Wilker and Sonia and the Association for Angolan Rock.

That’s the story that I’ve told forever and ever through all the… We’ve probably shown the film at 70 or 80 festivals around the world, in every continent including Antarctica. And in every one I tell that story–some slightly different version of it. And it’s almost 100 percent true, which means it’s not quite. There’s a slight change… I’d actually met Sonia a day before I’d met Wilker. Somebody on the coast had put me in touch with Sonia because she was known as an organizer who could help find people housing or help people who come into town in various different ways. So Sonia actually met me and a travel companion in town and ended up bringing us to a place. It turns out that Wilker had been in the car, and so he had seen me talking to Sonia, but I didn’t really meet him. I may have seen him from a distance. So it was almost pure kismet–it was kismet one way or another–but the mythologizing of it–it’s much better when I meet him totally randomly.

So that wave makes some sense.

The wave was that he had recognized me. But the fact that I randomly entered into their lives is absolutely true. But, in retrospect, it’s not as random as I thought, because there are networks of people who are attempting, and have been attempting, to rebuild the country on grassroots levels for a number of years, throughout the war years, and then in the post-war years. That network is still quite strong. And they’re sort of political organizers, and grassroots organizers. Sonia is a very important person in that network. So we met one person on the coast who inevitably wound up leading us to Sonia in the center of the country because Sonia actually is a personality who has helped innumerable people–an inordinate number of people–throughout the war, and is known in that circle.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the city? Was it destroyed recently ?

Angola experienced a series of wars. And they probably amounted together to be just under 40 years [1975-2002], so there was pretty constant warfare for an extended period of time–the first being an 11-year war of independence from Portugal, which then was immediately followed with an attack by South Africa from the south and the Cubans came across to counter them and that was the beginning of the civil wars. [Afropop covered this period in our program “Angola 4: The Cuban Intervention”] There are a number of different factions that began to fight with a number of foreign powers that had vested interests in these different factions, so it became a de facto proxy Cold War battleground.

The center of the country was one of the most devastated regions in the country, where there are two neighboring towns called Huambo and Kuito in the Bié province. In Kuito, there was a siege of  something like 100 days or 120 days [September 1987-March 1988]. And then the surrounding areas were mined, with anti-personnel land mines, significantly. The population of Huambo, which had once been an extremely stately town–like I said, it was sort of the jewel in the crown of the Portuguese empire–was devastated, absolutely devastated. The number of dead and wounded was extraordinary, and the infrastructure of the town was devastated. There was a hiatus for a year [May 1991-September 1992], and then the war started again. It was in that period when the big sieges came. Now, the city has just now been renovated and the infrastructure has been completely overhauled. The city is very different than what it was like when we were filming, which was just a couple of years ago. The rate of rebuilding and reconstruction is quite extraordinary.

So, how did death metal, which is a  consistently underground subculture in the West, get to Angola?

This is something that I’ve given a lot of thought to, and among the musicians and the people I’ve talked to there is no current consensus about how it got there and why it became so popular. I think that that’s partly because it’s a nascent movement, so they’re in the midst of its emergence and I think that probably in a couple of years, people will be able to look back and trace its roots in a much more profound way than people are even capable of doing at this point. That scholarly work is still yet to come. But during the wars, a lot of Angolans had fled to Portugal and so a lot of people had family that was in Portugal. In the ’70s when the wars first started, a lot of people–if they were lucky enough, if they were fortunate enough–they would try to send their children out of Angola and go stay with family in Portugal to protect them from the war, so they wouldn’t have to go fight.

It happened to be the period of time just after the fall of Salazar, the dictator in Portugal, and when that happened there was a youth movement that picked up rock. Rock came a little bit later to Portugal than other parts of Europe and of the United States, partly because of the dictatorship, but when it came, it came quite full force and carried all the hallmarks of rock, of youth culture: of liberation, of being able to speak your mind, of being able to talk about the past and challenge authority in the present. They could express their own mythologies–their growing mythologies–and start writing history. My guess–and this is a little bit from talking with Sonia–is that a number of the kids that had been sent to Portugal from Angola ended up getting wrapped up in the youth culture. They were kids and they brought some of this back with them. Some of them were playing music or they’d bring back records or bring back instruments, and start their own bands. Sonia knows every single one of the bands, because she loved it from the beginning. She can talk about when this band played at this Christmas event, you know, in 1980. She has the encyclopedic knowledge of every concert that she’s ever been to.

There were bands that would emerge and after a little while they would disappear. Part of that has to do, I believe, with the fact that there wasn’t a homegrown audience for it. There were these bands, but it was hard for other people to know about what was going on, so that they couldn’t really build a movement. A band would emerge that would be good and then they’d get tired and it would dissolve. There was a whole period of emerging and dissolving of this music scene. At the end of the wars in 2002, there was peace, but there was also a massive technological revolution that took place.

I always thought the emergence of the scene is happening now because all of these young guys who had grown up in the war had have access to hearing music from the West and so they’re taking that music and that’s kind of how it happened, but I actually think it happened the way that music movements happen–that they’re local and it’s about people who know about what their counterparts are doing in the next city or in the next town who then decide to get together or to travel to that town. People started to share not only music from abroad, but their own music. It wasn’t like “this is Metallica playing or this is Children of Bodom.” This is like, “this is Before Crush and they’re in Lobito and we want to get them to Luanda to play in this club.” Then they would start to work off of each other, and I believe that it’s because in the beginning, it was still impossible to travel to Lobito from Luanda or from Huambo, because the roads were destroyed; the infrastructure was destroyed; there were landmines; it was very dangerous. But people could communicate via email, blogs, Facebook, YouTube. And eventually, they started to create and hear about this movement and that created a community, and in that community, people started to pull in influences from the outside, but also influences from one another, and that’s where it became extremely creativity. I think that that’s sort of what we were lucky enough to capture–the first burgeoning, the critical mass.

It got to a certain state where they were going to have their first national concert, where they were going bring together all these people from all these different places that had been talking to each other and hearing about each other and trying to go to concerts here and there. They were trying to bring them all together in once place and they decided that the one place needed to be Huambo, because Huambo was one of the places that had been the most devastated in the war. And this music spoke to that reality in a way that Luanda didn’t, or Benguela on the coast didn’t. The spiritual center of the music was in this place that had experienced the horrors of the late 20th and early 21st century. This was a kind of a music and a kind of a truth telling that needed to be experienced by the bands in this place and also by the population of Huambo. That was very much the feeling of Sonia and Wilker–that it had to happen here. And everybody else agreed; they were like, “We’re gonna make that pilgrimage to that place.”


That’s amazing because in a lot of ways it strikes me that that’s also how metal happened here. One of the guys from Metallica came from Denmark, so he knew the people in Denmark who were trading tapes.

Exactly. But I think that the most important thing for me is the social meaning of the music. There are a lot of people who are full of prejudice and misconceptions about the way that music movements grow. People are like, “It’s copying something from outside,” but I think the truth of it is that there’s an indigenous growth of community that happens in the exact same way in the United States as in Angola, as in Portugal before that. It’s like that thing about sharing mix tapes, you know? Or bands, people, trying to come together and learn how to handle band practice with all of the egos that are in that room, figuring out how to negotiate and mediate between them. How do you organize an actual concert? The recording technologies allow you to share music; people start writing their own lyrics and start telling the stories and creating mythologies that everybody else in that world relate to. You may appreciate something that’s come from outside, but the truth of its growth happens internally. Ultimately, it’s just talking back and forth in this incredibly educated group of people. A lot of them are self-educated; they’re very, very smart, super curious, erudite, soft-spoken folks, very much like death metal folks and metal folks around the world. They get up and they do this crazy thing together and then when they sit around together they’re total sweethearts and love on each other. If you’ve seen that scene in the States, in Europe, in South America, wherever, that’s what this thing looks like, with its special influences and its special history and its special purpose to this place.

At the same time, I think it’s interesting, because I have to admit that, before I saw the movie, I was like, “Oh boy, here we go again.” Death metal, in Angola, great. It’s like–there’s a lot of crazy music in Angola that doesn’t get enough attention. Why do I need a story about metal? And then I saw the film and I was like, “Oh my God, this is a totally different thing.” But I wonder–how much of the initial charge do you think comes from that unexpected juxtaposition?

Yeah, it’s interesting. There was just an article written by the filmmaker Terence Nance, who made The Oversimplification of Her Beauty, a feature film that was out last year. Terence wrote this really beautiful article in which he described how, in the film, within the first five minutes, he realized it was a bait and switch–that you expect it to be about that initial charge, and how interesting to have black bodies with this hard Nordic music. That unexpected novelty is the thing that generates immediate interest, but the truth is that the film is not about that at its core. It’s about post-colonialism and it’s about how people heal and how people process extraordinary pain and start to build community. It’s also about a vision of 21st century Africa that is unexpected.

That bait and switch that happens within the film itself is the bait and switch that worked on me, as a person, when I met Wilker at that table. I had been researching for a month; I had been traveling along the train line researching the way in which this place and different people were dealing with the ghosts of the past, while at the same time pursuing a mad rush towards the future–that’s what that tension was. That’s sort of how I was seeing the world. When I saw Wilker, I was like, “Oh my god, death metal in this place. That’s weird; I want to see that.” And when he gave me the address to the orphanage, I assumed that it was a bar or a club or something like that until I got to the place. I realized when we were there and I started listening to the music that there was kind of a quality in Okutiuka, this bombed-out milk factory where 55 boys had found refuge with this incredible woman, Sonia Ferrera–that the music and the growling voice, the hard riffs–it was a certain kind of incantation. And it had a lot to do with the sort of chiaroscuro of the lights from the SUV. It was super dramatic. It was like Nosferatu. In that moment, I realized that there was a kind of a depth to the experience of playing that music and, for me, of listening to that music that resonated with so many more elements of the recent and distant history of this place than I had ever expected, and what initially started off as a novelty very quickly gave way to the profundity of the experience–of how you navigate and come out of calamity and destruction and death in a way that allows you to then live.

One of the lyrics of one of the first songs that Wilker sang for me was “open your eyes.” It was called “The Obscurismo: The Dark Ages of the Mind,” and the message was to let the music come in and open your eyes. There was something about waking up; there was something about listening to the music that was about waking up to the truth of the place. So what was initially titillating in some way became much more humbling and profound, as I got closer to it and sat still and really looked at it. I think that has entirely to do with how extraordinary the people are at the core of it. Sonia and Wilker and those around them are very unique people in their ability to be honest about the music, and to continue. They have a desire to share that–to share that sort of life force that they’ve been able to find through this.


Is there a political component to the music? Because I feel like it’s a funny thing, it’s a very political film in a really almost oblique way.

 Yeah, well, it’s interesting because being political in an oblique way is, I think, at the core of music in Angola as well. I think it’s a political act to have put on the concert. To have gotten up in that place in this time to be able to present this vision of African and this vision of music, and to do it publicly is a huge political act. These musicians are skirting a very fine line to be able to get their vision of present and the future out, to tell the truth and to be able to do it right up to the point that they don’t get very serious blowback from authorities. It’s a very real concern and I’ve actually had conversations with Sonia about it where I’ve gone and I’ve given interviews and talked about the political situation in Angola and I’ve associated it with them and the film, and Sonia’s like, “Jeremy, be careful. We live here. What you say has an effect and you have to be really careful.” And Sonia and Wilker and the others are just brilliant political beings.

And I believe that in the aftermath of this long 40 years of war, in a country that is experiencing unprecedented economic growth with extraordinary natural resources and an extraordinary amount of wealth that still to this day remains in the hands of very few people, I believe that to organize a musical event that has a tremendous amount of prejudice against it as being strange, Satanic, dark, unwholesome, to be able to convince public officials that this is not a foreign music but that it actually has roots in Africa, that it is a return of African music and that it is an expression of African culture, to be able to create a platform where people can sing the songs that they’re singing that deal with the war that most people try to gloss over, dealing with issues that are currently facing populations and to actually organize a community based around that desire to tell that truth is a huge political act in that place.

And I think, like in a lot of different environments, you have to be careful about what becomes explicit and what’s implicit in the information that’s being shared. What are the dog whistles? What are the sounds that certain people hear and others don’t? And I think that they’re very good at doing this. And I think that it was very important for me that the film wasn’t tritely political. It is nearly impossible to explain to a non-Angolan audience the complexities of the political situation in Angola and the complexities of the war and the history of the war and where people are right now–it doesn’t make sense. And I think that the politics of the film have to do with the politics of expressing some sort of human presence, some soul in the place that has been soul-crushing. And to give a vision of Africa to the rest of the world that confounds expectations is the kind of oblique political pursuit of the film. And I think that doing that on the part of the musicians is also this sort of oblique political expression.

That’s interesting cause it reminds me of the kuduro scene. For a while I couldn’t understand what kuduro was. I knew that it wasn’t just breakdancing, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. And it wasn’t until I saw the dancing live that I could kind of get it.  There’s this energy, and you’re like “Oh, I see. This is a different thing.” 

Yeah, you know it was really interesting because when I think of kuduro dance, I think that it’s much closer to punk dance, in an interesting way, than like funk carioca or like baile funk. There’s a kind of catapulting yourself into the heavens without any regard for catching yourself on the way down, right? There’s a kind of a ecstatic throwing of self, where as funk carioca is very sexual in its bass, and it’s all bass, it’s down low. But the rhythm, the staccato rhythm of kuduro and the fractured nature of it, the piecing together elements that don’t go together, and it’s kind of ugly and there are tinny sounds and sounds of goats mixed in. It’s incredibly creative, it’s picking up fragments of things that are found and then just throwing yourself upwards. And I think that actually kuduro and the metal scene have more in common than you would think at first glance, and there is a kind of intensity and ecstatic expression that exists in both and a kind of picking up pieces that exists in both. And at this moment in time there actually are experiments happening where kuduro and metal are starting to mix and there are a couple of bands that are doing that. It’s a very fervently creative environment at the moment in Angola.

One of the thing’s that I find really interested about your approach is that it seems that you see this as very much connecting with your own background.

Yeah, I do. I have a very uneasy relationship to documentary and the power dynamics that are built into it–that are impossible to escape–and so what I’m always looking for are ways to improvise and ways to collaborate with subjects, but not in a way that you often see in the States and elsewhere, where the filmmaker becomes an onscreen subject. And it’s about the filmmaker’s journey through the world. I just don’t believe in making a film about somebody else; I believe that you make a film with somebody and you meet where you meet; you meet in certain common ground. And so one of the things that struck me the entire time I was in Angola was how much certain parts of the country reminded me of where I grew up in Detroit–the physical degradation of some of the cities. In Detroit, there are a lot of abandoned houses; there are a lot of houses that have been burned down; there was a mixture of that experience and very stately houses–a sort of harkening back to a grandeur, and also knowing that that particular grandeur in Detroit was a hotbed of racism and of classist society. People talk about the heyday of Detroit–back in the day, it used to be so great–and I always think, you know, the Ku Klux Klan got 33 percent of the vote in 1930. The “heyday” was a heyday for some people, but not for others.

And I see that history embedded in Huambo, in the same way that I see it in my city. I see that the history of neglect and power, the sort of power struggles that have led to the destruction of the city to be, if not the same, at least related at some fundamental level. I was the only white kid in my neighborhood, or one of the only white kids in my neighborhood. Everyone in my neighborhood came from the South with the first or second great migration fleeing Jim Crow and post-slavery oppression and violence. Part of the culture I grew up in was deeply indebted to social structures that traveled from numerous different places in Africa, converged, mixed and transmorphed in the cauldron of American slave culture. So while the culture my friends’ parents and grandparents brought with them from the South was absolutely a result of a uniquely American experience, it was deeply indebted to roots of social structures across Africa–including Angola. That said, it was always important for me to try to understand where I was through my own experiences, not to assume that what was in Angola was what I experienced in Detroit.

I’m trying to listen to the unique situation in Angola, and not to see it as something entirely foreign, to see it as something that was like a cousin, that was related, that we belonged to the same family, at some level, even if we maybe don’t look like it. It’s that sort of familial relationship of historical connections from the middle passage, and the slave trade from Africa–from Angola to North America and South America–is undeniable. That connection of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the middle passage is undeniable, and the remnants of it are in my neighborhood, and in very interesting ways, in Huambo. We’re on two different ends of some kind of crazy historical continuum, and the entire time that we were there that made me feel human and vulnerable. This was the way in which I could then enter into improvising and negotiating and living with people. It’s very tricky. But it’s just the way that I interact in the world. I try to, to the best of my ability.

Can you tell you a little bit about the Resilience Tour?

I’m a Fulbright alum, and last year the New York chapter of the Fulbright association ended up supporting the New York DocNYC premier of Death Metal Angola. They started a residence program where they wanted to feature an alum, or alumna and try to incubate a project they were doing and help get it to more visibility in some way. And they knew about Death Metal Angola and had previewed the trailer at a Fulbright salon and had been talking about it and we ended up becoming the inaugural residents. As part of the Fulbright scholar, alumnus, in residence project, we needed to figure out a way to bring the concerns of Death Metal Angola to an American audience, and we came up with this idea of the Resilience Tour. It relates a lot to the question you were asking me before about the ways in which I saw where I grew up in Detroit as somehow linking me in various ways to the experiences I had in Angola. And because we started thinking a lot about what was extraordinary about the story of Death Metal Angola and, for me, it had primarily to do with a very clear example of resilience, of how people confront and experience calamity and find the tools necessary to bounce back and to survive, at the first level, and then potentially to thrive. And for Sonia, rock in general and very hard rock in particular became an essential tool in her ability to remain resilient through years of war, through years of various kinds of violent assault from individuals or from governments and from life, and to be able to provide hope for a group of kids as well as young musicians. So she’s like the queen of resilience in my mind. And I always think about Detroit as being extraordinarily resilient.

You know, I’m extremely proud to be from Detroit and people are always like, “Well, Detroit’s making a comeback now,” and I get slightly offended by that. I’m like, “Well, we’ve always been there and we’ve always been coming back and we’ve always been surviving.” And you know there are people who are living lives and somehow making it through the hardest days, and it’s not just because people are coming from the outside and starting to find inexpensive real estate and make new lives. It’s that the strength of Detroit lies in the character of the inhabitants, the citizens of Detroit that have been there throughout. And I always thought, I want to show this film to my friends and family and people in my neighborhood back in Detroit because they’ll see it, they’ll understand it, they’ll get it, and it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to keep going, but also to think, how do you build something powerful? How do you build into the future using what you already have at your disposal? And so the idea of the Resilience Tour was to choose  five or more towns around the country that have experienced different kinds of calamity, whether it be economic, natural disaster, or something else, and to show the film and to get local organizers and scholars or whatever together to talk about how you rebuild in the aftermath of devastation, which is an essential question, I think, in our day and age, in the United States and also globally.

 Yeah, one of the things I like best about that is this idea that you can take lessons that people figured out in Angola and apply them to America–that’s really powerful to me.

I think that it’s really important and it’s interesting. After the concert–this is something that we never got on camera but was really important to me and stuck with me–everybody was exhausted, and Sonia was looked up at me–and there were no cameras anywhere around, we were just hanging out–and she’s like, “Jeremy, you know I’m sure you, coming from New York, this concert, what we did here is going to look like this little tiny thing, on the edge of the world, you know? Just a tiny nothing sort of thing. But from here, given where we’re coming from and what everyone’s experienced to get to stage, for these guys to get up on the stage to make this music in this world and to make this definition of self, this is huge. This is as big as it gets, in the world.” And I was looking at her and I was like, “Wow,” because for me it was never a question–this was phenomenal. What they pulled off was just as big as anything I’ve ever seen. And I realized, in retrospect, as we started to show this to American audiences, they’re going to be looking at it through different eyes and they’re going to potentially look down on these images. And the truth is that these are lessons for us, these are people at the cutting edge of understanding how to rebound from disaster and to build society, which are issues that we all are facing. These are experts, and I see them as experts. And in a really interesting way, it’s one of the things about the vision of Africa in general from the West.

The Angola Project Teaser from Performance Space 122 on Vimeo.

The whole reason I ever went to Angola in the very beginning, was that I had been invited to Lisbon to create a new performance project. These theaters had invited me, and I didn’t want to do a performance project; I wanted to make a movie, and so we made a deal that I would document my research for the movie and use that as the basis for a performance piece. It’s called the Angola Project and we toured the world with it. During those interviews, I talked with this young Angolan woman who was a law student, just finishing up her studies and I asked her,”So you’re almost done with your studies–are you gonna stay in Lisbon? Are you gonna go somewhere else in Europe?” And she looked at me, like I was crazy, she was like, “Europe’s dead. The future is in Angola.” And I was like, “Wha-wha-wha-what?” It was the first time that someone had reflected to me the vision of Africa as being at the forefront of the 21st century, in terms of power and politics, and in terms of economy. And that has since come to pass. The fastest growing economies in the world are all in Africa. And so what I realized, and what became so attractive to me, was a reversal of the story that has existed throughout the 20th century about Africa. I was interested in a story in which white people didn’t exist, in which people were powerful and taking control of situations and the future and I believe very much that that is what the core of this film is about, that’s the vision that it provides at the end of the day. It’s that tragedy-to-triumph kind of story but it’s a vision, it’s one vision among many, of a very vibrant and extremely rich moment in African history and identity in the 21st century. DMA3

You know, it’s something that we’ve explored some. Where you just get these moments of pure future in Mali, in South Africa, in all these various places. And you realize that as the world sort of flattens out, you get parts of America that are devastated, almost war torn, and those neat borders don’t tell the story at all.  

No, it doesn’t. It’s like we are cousins. The structure of the nation-state is less essential than it had been throughout the 20th century and the 19th century, and the experiences of different communities, diasporic communities or similar kinds of communities in different places, those links are much more powerful than some sort of national identity for the people who know, the people who are not necessarily invested in a nationalist agenda, per se, but are looking for commonalities of experience. And I think those commonalities of experience absolutely exist across borders, across continents.

And definitely felt being in Angola it was like, “This is the future.” There is something wild and unexpected and vibrant and instructional that’s taking place in this place that we all are going to become aware of at some point in the not too distant future, and  our ideas about the roles of different countries are gonna shift, they’re just shifting. As the world shifts, axes of power shift.

You can–and should–buy Death Metal Angola from iTunes here: 

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