Our Lady of the Chinese Shop (2022) Locarno Film Festival

August 11th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor



Dir.: Ery Claver; Cast: Claudia Pacuta, David Caracol, Willi Ribeiro, Liu Xiubing, Clemente Chimuco; Angola 2022, 98 min.

In the second Angolan feature screening at this year’s LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL writer/director Ery Claver envelopes magic realism into a labyrinthine tale involving a trio of turbulent lives in the chaotic capital of Luanda. .

In this metaphor of modern times, one middle-aged woman is having a particularly hard time. In the former glory of her rambling home where he husband Bessa (Caracol) is languishing in bed with a raging fever, Domingas (Pacuta) is trying to fix a hole in the roof while mourning the recent loss of her daughter Mariana, who stills visits her in dreams.  A spiritual healer has brought Domingas some hope by suggesting a shower in the bathroom might in some way help. A prologue sheds some light on the couple who are well respected members of the ruling party. Their regular meetings take place in a half-finished stadium with stands are full of shirts and trousers, rather than actual people.

Bessa is introduced by Chimuco (Chimuco) to other local luminaries, and it soon becomes clear that something is not right: their party leader is nervous, and Bessa interrupts his speech in a move he will later regret. Meanwhile, Chinese mall owner Zhang Wei (Xiubing) has imported a job lot of statues of the Virgin Mary (which glow in the dark) in the hope of making a killing amongst those who believe in her lucky powers. A third narrative strand involves Zoyo (Ribeiro), a young dreamer desperate to track down a close friend who was also in love with Mariana. Zoyo disregards his friend Zhang Wei’s advice, and steals some petrol to make a Molotov Cocktail. But where will he throw the finished article?

DoP Eduardo Kropotkine deserves the lion share of the praise with his muted domestic scenes, lively outdoor images and spectacular shots in the stadium which convey the three different levels of this divided society. Even in Angola Politicians seem to live in another world, with their staff fighting for the left-overs on the buffet in this depressing but only to familiar story brought to the screen with great style and artfulness. AS


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