Amilcar Cabral documentary movie: a review

Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973)

Amílcar Cabral is a documentary movie about the life and legacy of the leader of the anti-colonial movement in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde. The film draws from family photos and archives footage to overview Cabral’s biography. Thus the viewer is shown sketches of the early life (youth, education) the family side and the public life (politics, warfare) of Cabral.
The producer showcases interviews of  Amilcar’s family  and colleagues. Among the interviewees are:

  • Cabral’s first and second wives
  • A few of his schoolmates
  • Aristides Pereira, the PAIGC deputy secretary general

Value of the Amilcar Cabral documentary

The movie’s key scene is most likely the eyewitness account of the circumstances of the assassination on Jan. 15, 1973 in Conakry. The tragedy happened in presence of Ana Marial Cabral, Amilcar’s second spouse. On one point, her recollection remains an important testimony about the last moments of her husband.

Cabral resisted physically to his attackers. But the fight was uneven. They overwhelmed him quickly, tied up and laid him down in his house, on the living room couch. Helpless but defiant, Cabral told them he would prefer death to being tied up. He reminded them that that’s how slave traders and colonialists treated Africans… Shortly after, he received two bullets on the right side of the stomach. A few minutes later, the assassins finished him off with a hail of 7 or 8 bullets, she said.

She also identified Innocencio Kani, a PAIGC military officer, as the head of the assassination squad.

Missing pieces

Unfortunately, the movie overlooks some fundamental aspects of Cabral’s life and death. For one thing, it completely ignores Sékou Touré and Léopold Senghor and fail to even mention their names.

Similarly, the name of Nino Vieira —past and current president of Guinea-Bissa — is missing in the film. This is a stunning, glaring and inexplicable — and most likely a deliberate — omission. Nino was the general field commander of the PAIGC guerrilla army.

Finally, the film is silent about the fate of the assassins. In a few Camp Boiro survivors’ account, it is alleged that the killers surrendered to Sekou Touré’s security forces. For instance, Col. Kaba 41 Camara suggests that they turned themselves in, confident that their forfeit would go unpunished. They were wrong. After a short period of detention at Boiro, they were transferred to the Guinea Bissau territory controlled by the PAIGC. There, they were swiftly tried, sentenced to death and executed.

Last, but not the least, the movies fails to give the slightest account of the investigation of the murder and the trial the assassins.

Cabral’s memory

Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau have poorly kept Amilcar Cabral’s memory. Yet, he gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of these two countries. The film shows no memorial, building or street, named in remembrance of this stellar African figure.

My rating of the movie? On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it thumbs down with 2 stars.

Tierno S. Bah
September 26, 2008
Warren M. Robbins Library. National Museum of African Art. Smithsonian Institution.