ROSTOV - LUANDA
Documentary by Abderrahmane Sissako, color, 90', Germany/France 1997
Script and direction: Abderrahmane Sissako
Rostov, Luanda. What have these two cities got to do with each other? They are stations of a biography. The young director sets out in search of . . . a lost homeland. He was born in Mauritania and grew up in Mali. After finishing school he was granted the opportunity to study film in Moscow. In order to learn Russian he was sent to Rostov on the Don for an entire year. On the endless train ride from Moscow to Rostov there was another obviously non-native man: the dark-skinned Baribanga, an African like the author, from present-day Angola. He was also slated to learn the language because he wanted to study administration. That year, far from home, the two Africans became friends.
ROSTOV-LUANDA tells two stories: It is the search for the friend of the past, leading to an encounter with present-day Angola. And it is a personal retrospective, tracing the great lines of Africa's recent history. Following his study of film, his years of journeying and the search for home, Abderrahmane Sissako asks himself what has become of his old friend.
Sissako begins his search in Angola. Will he find a complacent government official who only benefited from his Russian training? Or a victim of war? There has been no peace in Angola for thirty years. In order to do the research work for a film there, one needs a bodyguard day and night. Sissako travels with Pinto at his side. From the beginning the two young men have one thing in common-their abhorrence of war. Pinto looks back on a life as a soldier. And everything he expresses speaks of the absurdity of this war; it is not a story but the outcry of a human being against death. He recounts the death of his parents and cries. "The war is in Pinto's eyes and in his silence when he remembers.
Sissako's film is about departure and infinite journey: the departure from Mauritania for Mali shortly after birth, then-sixteen years ago-from Africa for the former Soviet Union, the station now leading us to Angola. Here he does not know his way around, does not even speak the language. But he sees: In a bar in the middle of Luanda he watches how people go in and out, how music is made, and how the endless war still determines the people's lives. With this film Sissako encompasses the histories of many countries, their intwinement, and the effect on the everyday lives of the people. The confusion of a continent becomes a sensual experience, and we perceive something of the history of Africa. ROSTOV - LUANDA is Abderrahmane Sissako's first documentary.