Invoking Africa’s brutally violent and complex colonial histories in the film’s polyglot, hydra-headed title, Rocha transposes his radical allegory of oppression from the Brazilian backlands of his Cinema Novo classic Antonio das Mortes (1968) to the Congolese savanna. A white-robed preacher wanders and sermonizes across African lands (in a stream-of-consciousness performance by Léaud); European communists and CIA spies conspire out of mutual self interest to engineer the appointment of an African bourgeois to a puppet government presidency; and a revolutionary group marches in exile. Rocha’s second feature film after fleeing Brazil’s military dictatorship, Der Leone Have Sept Cabeças introduces intentionally disorienting new situations in virtually every scene, the result of a largely improvised production that cast European actors, local villagers, and real guerilleros side-by-side. - MoMA
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