“Death Metal Angola is a beautiful film, one that is bound to become a cult classic, watched dozens of times — as I must admit I’ve been doing with my screener. Xido’s protagonists have found the hidden energy of a style of music that perhaps at its core meant to heal and inspire, but has always represented a completely different energy for me. Death metal or black metal is that nordic, dark music that seemed favored by skinheads and white extremists, yet for the kids of Okutiuka, their guardian Sonia and her boyfriend Wilker, the music draws from their personal experiences and from their African roots, while the lyrics help to purge all the specters of a past lived in their hell on earth. As Sonia touchingly admits at one point, in her soothing Portuguese: “Rock was one of the ways that helped me to fight for my freedom.
Death Metal Angola also promises to make coveted rockstars of Wilker Flores, the groups Dor Fantasma, Neblina, Before Crush and Black Soul, among many, many more musicians featured in the documentary. It’s a must-watch film which will be screened next at the International Film Festival Rotterdam as part of their Signals: Sound Stages program. And make sure you watch it through the final credits — you’ll thank me for the advice.”
“Perusing the Dubai programme deciding what to see when your knowledge of Arab and African cinema is on the rudimentary side can generate a fog of confusion, so a film titled “Death Metal Angola” stands out like a screaming neon sign. Jeremy Xido, who directed this absorbing, beautifully shot documentary, which had its world premiere in Dubai, is a Detroit-born multi-talent (he has a European-based contemporary dance company and acted in “The Machinist”) and was in Angola researching another documentary about a Chinese railroad when he discovered that the war-torn nation has a flourishing death-metal scene. An ex-Portuguese colony, Angola was wracked by civil war for nearly four decades (until the US, China and Russia stepped up to end the conflict, lured by the country’s abundant natural resources); its people are haunted and scarred by their history; and the angry aggression of death metal offers an ideal outlet for expressing that angst. One Angolan musician describes the music as “a scream in revolt against what happened in our past that helps us remove the debris and suffering of war”.
At the film’s epicentre is a woman named Sonia Ferriera, a rock ‘n’ roll lover who not only acts as godmother to the nation’s death and thrash metal scene but runs an orphanage in Huambo, a city that witnessed more horrors than most. The stories and experiences relayed in “Death Metal Angola” are unfathomable and devastating, but there is a sense of hope for the future; the music… well, not to my taste but you can’t help feeling moved watching these musicians sing their pained lyrics. Xido couldn’t finish his film in time to try for a Sundance slot but is hoping South By Southwest will go for “Death Metal Angola”, which would be a stronger fit anyways because of the film’s musical connections. I hope he makes the cut but even if he doesn’t, I predict a long festival life, if not more, for Xido’s superb film.”
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
“An upbeat chronicle of very hard rock in a very hard place, Death Metal Angola is one of the livelier and more enticingly exotic additions to the ever-burgeoning music-documentary sub-genre. An American-Angolan co-production that represents a likeably promising big-screen debut for Detroit-born globetrotter Jeremy Xido, this brisk survey of ear-splitting bands in an African country recovering from horrific civil war will prove a popular choice for festivals and small-screen programmers alike following its December world premiere in Dubai and European bow in Rotterdam.”
“Other highlights of the festival included the world premiere of Death Metal Angola, an outstanding documentary looking at the metal scene emerging from the ashes of civil war in the west African country. The screening was the first chance its main protagonist – Sonia Ferreira, who runs an orphanage in the city of Huambo – had had to see the film and proved somewhat emotional for her in the Q&A session afterwards. Adding to the drama, Ferreira and Wilker Flores – who helped set up the country’s first metal concert – had only made it to Dubai thanks to donations from friends at home towards the flights.”
“When you’re leafing through a festival catalogue, trying to decide which movies are worth a look, a title like Death Metal Angola is always going to get your attention. And a good job too. A riveting documentary from director Jeremy Xido it explores, as the title suggests, the vibrant death metal scene in the West African country of Angola. That Angola has a death metal scene – or any metal scene at all – is surprising enough, but what is truly amazing is how extreme rock music is helping to heal the wounds of a devastating civil war and to give a sense of purpose to a generation physically and psychologically scarred by the conflict. Apart from the musicians themselves, at the heart of the film are Sonia Ferreira and her partner Wilker Flores who founded and run the Okotiuka orphanage in the city of Huambo, the epicenter of the death metal explosion.”
“A Cult classic in the making”
“Absorbing, beautifully shot documentary… I predict a long festival life, if not more, for Xido’s superb film.”
“Raucously crowd pleasing…enticingly exotic…clangorous, rousingly energetic”
“An outstanding documentary”
Talks at Google with Jeremy Xido, Earl Douglas (Black Rock Coalition), Jennifer Wright (The Field) and Josephine Dorado (Fulbright Association)