Monday, September 09, 2019

Another Day of Life, from GKIDS

In 1981, Ryszard Kapuscinski was fired for supporting Solidarity, but back in 1975, as a journalist in good standing from a Soviet satellite state, he was granted rock star access by the Marxist MPLA during the Angolan Civil War. He duly took their side, as is clearly depicted in Raul de la Fuente & Damain Nenow’s Another Day of Life, which opens this Friday in New York.

Unfortunately, Kapuscinski is no longer with us. If he were, he might have a few choice words to say about Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras, two journalists who successful defended themselves against criminal defamation charges after they dared to report on the attorney general’s corruption. Sadly, none of Kapuscinski’s surviving comrades who are seen during the film’s live action talking head sequences have anything to say about the lack of press freedoms during the MPLA’s uninterrupted single-party rule that they and Kapuscinski helped bring about. At least, Kapuscinski is seen struggling with the fundamental issue of how reporters change events just through their very presence.

Nevertheless, it is still pretty compelling to watch the stumble-faced Kapuscinski venture towards the southern front, in hopes of scoring an interview with Farrusco, a legendary Portuguese paratrooper who crossed over to the MPLA side. To get past the initial checkpoints, he enlists the help of Artur, a native Angolan journalist, but for the journey through the southern war zone, he convinces the MPLA to assign him Carlotta, the star soldier of MPLA’s propaganda campaign, as his escort (by promising her commander fawning press coverage).

You have to wonder if de la Fuente, Nenow, and their three co-screenwriters recognize the irony of the climax, involving Kapuscinski deliberate decision to exclude mention of the Cuban military’s armed intervention in the country, to prevent the American military from moving to counter them. It is indeed absolutely fair to ask about the implications of Kapuscinski’s decisions—in fact, it is conspicuously absent. Clearly something is profoundly amiss with the management of a nation with considerable diamond and petroleum reserves, but its per capita GDP is estimated below $4,000 US.

Frankly, it is surprising how biased Another Day is in favor of the oppressive MPLA, especially since it was co-helmed by Nenow, whose memorable short Paths of Hate depicts the dehumanization of war in a way that eschews ideology. Still, it certainly portrays Kapuscinski as a complex and conflicted character, rather than a standard-bearing revolutionary.

The animation of Another Day is quite similar in style to that of Paths of Hate. Both are quite stylish visually, so it is too bad GKIDS isn’t screening the 85-minute feature with the short, as they have sometimes done in the past. Regardless, the feature’s biases are so distractingly obvious and so many glaring questions are left dangling in the air (like what happened over the next forty-four years?), it greatly detracts from Kapuscinski’s character study. Not recommended, Another Day of Life opens this Friday (9/13) in New York, at the IFC Center.