At this point, I still didn’t understand the larger significance of death metal in Angola. The way I had been thinking about the train story was as a geopolitical narrative in which white people were totally irrelevant. For me, there was this big question: Is this really a moment in the 21st century when China and Africa can build something that benefits both, or is it just a new beginning to the same old story of colonial exploitation? Angola has replaced Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest supplier of oil, and once the landmines are cleared, there is a lot of arable land in Angola. The Angolans didn’t necessarily trust the Chinese, but they felt they were doing business with them, that they were partners, not supplicants. I was interested in stories of places where Chinese and Angolans met, and how new power relationships were negotiated. So this moment in the courtyard, bringing these different worlds together—Linda, us, the kids—around music that is associated with Norway and Sweden it was this big pot of confusion, but also a big party. After Wilker finished playing, the kids tried out their Mandarin on Linda, and she practiced her Portuguese on them. My feeling was that Wilker and his death metal could potentially be a point in this larger story I was interested in telling. Along the railroad, all these stories are unfolding that don’t look like any Africa you think you know.
Xido spent the next year trying to raise money for his train film. There was interest, but it eventually became clear that to get enough money he would have to go back to Angola with better equipment and get better material. But he needed a way to fund the return trip. In late 2010, he messaged Wilker on Facebook, “just to make sure he was still there,” and Wilker told him that he and Sonia were organizing Angola’s first-ever national rock concert for the following summer, at the orphanage, and that Xido must come film it. Xido decided that he could sell a short film on the concert as a way to fund his return trip to Angola. Soon, though, a much richer story began to emerge.
JX: Wilker became my social-media fixer, connecting me with different bands and their blogs and Facebook pages, pointing me to their performances on YouTube. I totally researched this story through social media. I would be walking down the street in New York, arranging interviews in Huambo through Facebook. Slowly, I started to understand who the characters were, but also that there was something much larger, and more significant, than a rock concert going on here. It became clear that I needed to produce a full film on this concert.
This is the music of the generation of people growing up with the failed promises of the post-war world in Angola. During the war, people talked about how, when the war is over, we will do this, we will fix that. But so much of that promise hasn’t been realized. They see themselves as being at the beginning of a new history. Through the music and the truth it expresses, they are picking up the fragments and starting to tell a compelling new story. In this way, the music is about creating a vibrant and viable and joyful future.