Air Conditioner: Vibrant Angolan debut that is like nothing you have seen before

This surreal odyssey is pitched somewhere between science fiction and magic realism

A scene from Air Conditioner.

Film Title: Air Conditioner

Director: Fradique

Starring: José Kiteculo, Filomena Manuel, David Caracol, Tito Spyck

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 75 min

Fri, Jul 23, 2021, 05:00

   

Film collectives, though hardly vogueish or new, have helped in recent years to fashion such festival heavy-hitters as Martha Marcy May Marlene, Thunder Road and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Air Conditoner, a vibrant new Angolan film comes from a collective called Geração 80, and is directed by the magnificently mononymous Fradique. The promising Angolan director, who is also known as Mário Bastos, received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco before returning home to make the 2015 documentary Independência, a chronicle of his native country’s colonial history and the war of independence from 1961 to 1974.

That fractured history also lurks around the margins of his debut feature.
Pitched somewhere between science fiction and magic realism, Air Conditioner is set in Luanda, a bustling city that finds itself with a disconcerting problem. As a radio announcer improbably reports, air conditioners are falling off buildings all over Angola, killing anyone unfortunate enough to be passing by at the wrong moment. Planned obsolescence has seldom been so murderous.

Matacedo (José Kiteculo), a security guard and all-purpose handyman, is dispatched by cleaning lady Zézinha (Filomena Manuel) to fix the fan belonging to her peeved boss. This errand takes him on a strange and shaggy journey featuring such detours as a game of draughts and helping an elderly gentleman carry his groceries up several flights of stairs.

Finally, after many such tangents, Matacedo encounters Mr Mino (David Caracol), an eccentric electrical engineer with an intriguing explanation about the air conditioner phenomenon. Picture the red-pill-blue-pill moment of The Matrix restaged in Mr Benn’s shop among janky, possibly enchanted things crafted from old VHS players and car lights. It’s a triumph for art director Prudênciana Hach.

Ery Claver, who co-wrote the screenplay with the director, provides arresting Steadicam as well as popping colours as cinematographer. In keeping with the film’s novel premise, this is like nothing you’ve seen anywhere else. Aline Frazão’s crashing, jazzy score adds a start to the ghosts in the machine.

Out now on digital release via Mubi