Amilcar Cabral Review

Genre: Historical Documentary
Year Released: 2000
Distributor: ArtMattan/Facets Video
Origin: Cape Verde/Portugal
Running Time: 60 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Frantz Fanon: His Life, His Struggle, His Life; Cabralista, Sans Soleil, The Heart of Amilcar Cabral, Boma-Tervuren, The Journey; The X Factor [Neset Kamene Documentary]
-This was part of a 2-disc DVD set from ArtMattan called African Leaders.
Fun Facts:
-Amilcar Lopes da Costa Cabral was a Bissau-Guinean of Cape Verdean descent who was born in Bafata, Portuguese Guinea (now modern-day Guinea Bissau), and was the leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde. The acronym is PAIGC which refers to the Portuguese name of “Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde”. Interestingly enough, the BBC of all organizations considered Cabral to be the 2nd greatest leader in their World History Magazine in 2020.

-Cape Verde is the Westernmost African nation on the continent and is one of six sovereign nations as well as sixteen if one counts overseas island territories on the African tectonic plate. The capital is Praia and the official languages are Portuguese as well as Cape Verdean Creole. They gained independence in 1975 and became a multi-party democracy in 1990.

-The Amilcar Cabral documentary was directed by Ana Lucia Ramos Lisboa who is briefly featured in an interview section. She’s a Cape Verdean filmmaker who actually studied music in Dakar, Senegal as well. Her other films include Fear and Cape Verde, My Love which would also be distributed by ArtMattan Productions.

Another country gets representation on Iridium Eye and it’s none other than the island nation of Cape Verde. Not going to lie, I get excited when I see cinema and documentaries from other countries I didn’t even think about. ArtMattan has certainly delivered in that regard, especially with African and Caribbean nations from what I’ve seen of their catalog so far as they cover movies from all over the diaspora. To make this even more intriguing, they managed to get a documentary involving a national hero associated with that nation (okay, he lived in Guinea-Bissau and Guinea as well, but it makes sense why). Chalk this up to another history lesson from a name I didn’t hear about until just a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t too familiar with his work. Will this be a good tribute to an African leader or will it be a mediocre attempt to cover a revolutionary?

Amilcar Cabral is about a multi-disciplinary man of the same name. Born in the country formally known as Portuguese Guinea and also living in his parents’ home nation of Cape Verde and being educated in Lisbon, Portugal during his university years, he became adept at several subjects. Cabral graduated with a degree in agriculture and became an agricultural engineer. In addition to that, he was also a poet, diplomat, and political organizer. Cabral actually had a normal childhood of sorts, was described as extremely polite, and was seen as a star pupil in the schools he went to. What his friends and colleagues would’ve never guessed how he’d be a revolutionary anti-colonial figure. He dealt with living in Portugal during that country’s dictatorship period as well as them having their own overseas empire across different countries to have a “multi-continental Portugal” as well as promoting the independence of African nations. Namely his home countries in the Guinea region and Cape Verde, but also Angola since that was owned by Portugal at the time and saw the mistreatment of the Africans there. Cabral helped fund the PAIGC to fight against the Portuguese colonizers. He also helped set up agriculture, schools, and businesses for those that were colonized as he did his best to gain independence. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in Conakry, Guinea (the capital and largest city of that nation) by the Portuguese army at the age of forty-eight in front of his own wife. Many interviewees involving people who knew him such as friends, family, and others discuss his life throughout different nations.

It can be very fascinating learning about historical figures especially when people have insider knowledge of them, so that dynamic was certainly powerful hearing all these firsthand accounts about Cabral. Hearing about his evolution from being a normal everyday person to being this charismatic leader of an anti-colonial movement was certainly amazing and unexpected. Not everyone has those kinds of dreams and goals at first. All it took was an extreme situation (racism and colonialism) to wake him up and to do his best to liberate people from multiple countries. One would only expect him to be some guerilla fighter, but he was far more. The fact he was a poet and they share some of his poetry in the film was a nice touch. I wouldn’t expect an agricultural engineer to lead some kind of revolutionary force, but it was interesting how he would teach farming techniques as well as crop management to his compatriots (whether Guinean, Cape Verdean, or even Angolan despite not being Angolan himself), so they can be self-sufficient as they do their nation-building. Kind of like Hate Crimes in the Heartland, that fact highlights the double standard of racists telling Black people to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” while at the same time destroying Black people whenever they do try to do for themselves. Going back to the choices of interviewees, it was also great seeing those of different ethnic groups talking about how influential he was including white Portuguese people in Portugal and Cape Verde respectively. The filming was more on the minimalist end, but I really liked the bookend shots of the desert hill in the beginning and end with the latter featuring a funeral scene showing children putting flowers on Cabral’s picture which was a very nice touch. They even add an African choir as some kind of ending theme for the documentary which was cool. The information brought out was very engaging as well as educational for anyone interested in watching it.

The Amilcar Cabral documentary may be about a revolutionary figure, but things can feel less than revolutionary at times. The filming felt a bit cheap and the camera work could’ve used some white balancing as well as come color correction at times. With the production of the film, some of the subtitles felt blocky especially when they interview someone new and blocks the original Portuguese titling in a weird matter. Going back to the subtitles, I was a bit peeved that they kept referring to the country as Cape Vert. That name is what they call that African nation in French, so it’s technically not wrong, but I don’t get why the English subtitles wouldn’t refer to that nation as Cape Verde or even Cabo Verde (the original Portuguese name) which are both acceptable to say in English much like how one could call a certain other African country Ivory Coast or Cote D’Ivoire for example. The history was certainly important and useful to know, but there were some more facts that would be revealed after this documentary was released. The big thing was who was behind Cabral’s assassination. They did fight the Portuguese army in order to get independence which no one can deny, but in 2006, some documents came out that the Portuguese government did have complicity with the assassination of Cabral involving orders straight out of Lisbon. That would’ve been very important to know and would’ve made the narrative much stronger as well as proving Cabral right even in death as to why the anti-colonial movements were attacked in the first place.

This was a powerful and educational watch from this African Leaders set presented by ArtMattan. I can see why people can look up to Amilcar Cabral in the Guinea and Cape Verde regions. The interview quality was top-notch as well as the vast range of interviewees who had firsthand accounts of this man’s life. I do wish the production would be better with the filming and subtitles though. Amilcar Cabral was a great watch that I would recommend to those who enjoy African history or revolutions. Recommended.

Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-2 points if you like documentaries involving revolutionary figures.
-Subtract 1-3 points if anti-colonialism turns you off.

-Very insightful information
-Amazing narrative about the history of that part of Africa
-Exclusive archived footage

-Film production should’ve been improved
-Subtitle issues with blocking as well as calling it Cape Vert
-Some historical aspects weren’t addressed

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Advisory: Amilcar Cabral would get a hard PG or soft PG-13 if this got an official rating. There’s talk about revolutionary wars, Cabral was assassinated, and the concept of colonization is brought up. Some discussions get very heavy.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Amilcar Cabral is property of ArtMattan and Facets Video. The poster is from IMDb and is property of ArtMattan and Facets Video.

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