TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Angelo’

TIFF 2018: Our Review of ‘Angelo’

It’s horrifying to know that Angelo Soliman was a real person. Living during the Atlantic slave trade, a man kidnapped him from Africa only for Europeans to pass him around. Said Europeans, who are mostly of noble birth, used him to confirm their lazy stereotypes of African people. After that, they rid themselves of him when he broke one of their arbitrary rules.

Life is cold and cruel, sure. The nobles robbed him of his agency and Angelo is doing the same thing, unfortunately. The first of the movie’s three acts leaves a bad impression, as its first closeup is of his kidnapper. This makes for a dangerous precedent. The film was never going to win, most of the parts here go to white actors.

But it would have been nice if Angelo got to speak more than he did here. Or if the frustrating script didn’t confine his lines to what the Europeans want him to parrot. Sure we get the expressive faces of the actors playing him, especially Kenny Nzogang as the child version of Angelo. But silence as subversion feels like a lousy consolation prize.

Period pieces are especially fascinating and it was probably a ‘privilege’ for actors of colour to work within those stories. And sure, Makita Samba, who plays Angelo’s adult version, got to wear the best costumes. But there was a distracting, overtly symbolic anachronism in the movie. That could have been a gimmick but this film already has one too many of those.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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