Director: Zézé Gamboa
Running Time: 97 min
Language: Portuguese with English subtitles
The Hero (O Herói) is the story of Angola, a nation torn apart by forty years of uninterrupted war, and now trying imperfectly but courageously to piece itself back together. It is also the story of a city, Luanda, like so many in the Third World, trying to absorb the millions of people displaced by civil strife and global economic change. After a thirteen year national liberation struggle against the Portuguese colonialists ended with independence in 1975, Angola plunged immediately into a brutal civil war. The national MPLA government, backed initially by Cuba and the Soviet Union, and the UNITA rebels, supported by the U.S. and the South African apartheid regime, remained locked in conflict until 2003, long after the end of the Cold War itself.
The central character of the film, the hero of the title, is Vitório. We meet him at a hospital where he has been waiting for months for a prosthetic leg to replace the one he lost after stepping on a landmine, ironically in the last months of Angola’s civil war. He was impressed into service at age fifteen while at a seminary and has been fighting for twenty years since. A doctor finally takes pity on him and gives him a new leg; Vitório is compared to someone beginning a new life. But the decorated war veteran encounters little sympathy and much prejudice for an unskilled soldier with a prosthetic limb as he scours Luanda looking for a job.
Winner, Grand Prize, World Dramatic Competition, 2005 Sundance Film Festival