Based on a novella by José Luandino Vieira, Maldoror's Sambizanga (1972) is an incendiary take on the genesis of Angola’s independence war against the Portuguese. It follows an Angolan worker imprisoned and tortured to death by the Portuguese on account of his ties with the emerging independence movement. But the film rests squarely on his wife Maria, for whom it builds a fortress of dignity. It is a story of repression, revealing of how the bureaucratic logic of colonialism works.




“You have to know that there are no whites, no mulattos, no blacks. There’s only the poor and the rich. The rich are the enemies of the poor and they make sure they stay poor.”

Quote by Domingos in Sambizinga


“What I wanted to show in Sambizanga is the alone-ness of a woman and the time it takes to trudge... In this film I tell the story of a woman. It could be any woman, in any country, who takes off to find her husband.”

Sarah Maldoror interviewed at the 1972 Carthage Film Festival


“Maldoror has said that she tried to do three things in the film: capture a particular movement in the history of the Angolan liberation struggle; create a film that would educate Westerners to what was happening in Angola; and tell the story of a revolution from a point of view usually neglected in such films – from the perspective of a woman caught up in a situation she does not understand. Sambizanga can be judged a success on all three counts.”

Michael Dembrow1


Monangambééé highlights the vicious consequences of willful ignorance within structures of colonial power while exemplifying Maldoror’s vision of care as a form of decolonial redress. These characteristics carry through Sambizanga in the way that it foregrounds hospitality and subterranean currents of information to suggest that revolutionary struggle may take the form of collective care and exchange. The film stresses the contributions of those who are frequently excluded from the dominant, masculinized narratives of militancy to create a portrait of intergenerational revolutionary struggle. Maldoror’s expansive notion of who can participate in political transformation encompasses women, including mothers, such as Maria herself, as well as children and the elderly, such as the young boy Zito (Adelino Nelumba) and his grandfather (Jean M’Vondo). The crucial relays of information about Domingos Xavier’s whereabouts and well-being take place among them and other Angolans. These clandestine webs of communication can also be seen as representing the colonized exercising their authority over knowledge and working against the epistemic monopolies of the colonial state. For Maldoror, knowledge was key. There was an educational and propagandistic impetus behind this film, as a way to both expose the atrocities of the Portuguese colonizers and garner support for the MPLA and the Angolan fight for independence. The colonial authorities certainly saw Sambizanga as a threatening cultural object, banning the film from being shown in Angola until 1974, one year before formal independence.”

Yasmina Price2


“Key ideas that resonated with me included the ways in which love and motherhood are part and parcel of revolution, the importance of poetry as a gateway to a better understanding of image-making, the necessity of pulling from other mediums to better inform your craft, and that political storytelling isn’t in opposition to beauty and aesthetics. All of these ideas, which would break off into deeper conversations pulling from post-colonial Marxist theory and poetry, served as an oft-needed reminder that nothing is new and we all have creative ancestors laying the foundations for our own work.”

Tayler Montague and Mark Asch3

UPDATED ON 20.11.2023
IMDB: tt0069214