'Maputo: A Low-Budget Dream': Reykjavik Review

Courtesy of Reykjavik International Film Festival
A spotty travelogue-cum-city portrait

Welcome to the capital of Mozambique

An introduction to Mozambique's capital that at times plays like a tourist's travelogue augmented with a couple of after-the-fact interviews, Mario Martinazzi's Maputo: A Low-Budget Dream depicts a city where the difference between haves and have-nots is unusually extreme. More colorful than it is deep, the doc will struggle to stand out at fests despite the relative freshness of its subject.

Hosted, after a fashion, by a man whose qualifications as a guide are never established (credits identify him as Felix Mambucho), the film returns regularly to the abandoned bullfighting arena in which he stands to address the camera. Mambucho's introductions of different topics tend toward the vaguely metaphoric and are delivered with the self-conscious showmanship of someone used to haranguing strangers on the street. Only late in the film does he claim to be a would-be filmmaker at heart — at which point Martinazzi uses a pair of actors to sketch out the HIV parable Mambucho is describing, dramatizing a scene or two before shifting his attention to a real-life public health worker. She describes the startling extent of the AIDS crisis here, saying that no extended family is without at least one infected member.

Before that, the film offers an enjoyable segment pairing the fond memories of a former cinema employee (his now-ruined workplace sits behind him) with the music of Eloy Vasco, a struggling performer whose take on regional singing styles is informed by a deep love of Elvis Presley.

It also visits the remains of Villa Algarve, interviewing both aged men who were once prisoners in this infamous house of torture and the young vagrants who squat there now. One of the current residents shares reports of an old tunnel that once connected torture cells to the seashore, and, though the passageway is considered dangerous, he seems willing to guide the filmmakers through. But Martinazzi only follows him a few feet into the darkness, dropping out his guide's dialogue in favor of one of the film's too-frequent musical interludes. We're left to assume that pursuing this potentially fascinating footage wasn't important enough to justify running off to fetch a couple of flashlights, and perhaps risking an encounter with those who hide in Maputo's darkest corners.

Production company: Luarte

Director-Director of photography-Editor: Mario Martinazzi

Screenwriters: Timi Gaspari, Mario Martinazzi

No rating, 68 minutes