The Cinemas of Angola – Spaces of Hope

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1314 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Jul 30, 2019

Words: 1314|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Jul 30, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Modernisation
  2. Cinema construct
    Film as a medium of hope

Africa, as a continent, has been of very little appeal and remained very much unnoticed. The Portuguese search, on route to the Indies and East, led to ‘modern’ European interference with the African continent, around 1450. The Dutch, the Spaniards, the French, the English and Scandinavians, who plundered up and down the African coast, followed this discovery by the Portuguese. There was very little interest, other than exploitation, in the continent.

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The presence and influence of these European ‘invasions’, led to the introduction of western principles and values. The cultural penetration of Europe, together with the introduction of modern infrastructure, led to the modernisation of the continent.


Modernisation, as a concept, is deeply entrenched in the history of the African continent through the notion of colonisation. Modernisation was one of the ways the empire used to colonise Africa, during the nineteenth century. The introduction of infrastructure and new technologies, like education, advancements in agricultural techniques, introduction of modern administration and the construction of railroads, were used to gain collaboration from local African leaders. These methods were purely part of the methods of colonial domination and were rarely altruistic.

The introduction of these new western methods and infrastructure were combined with the concept of separatism…a continent-wide form of apartheid. Cities were divided info formal and informal parts, the formal city was intended for white use only and the informal parts were where the local black population was tolerated. Splitting the cities in this way left a deep entrenched mark on the morphology of the modern African city, with its impact still very evident today.

In the 1950s and 1960s most African countries gained independence from their European ‘oppressors’ and Architecture became on of the fundamental means of expression of this new national identity. Central banks, Parliament buildings, convention centers, stadiums and universities were constructed with often very daring designs.

Cinemas, stages for culture, theaters, assembly rooms and entertainment spaces became a direct contact with dreams for the future. The cinemas of Angola are a reflection of the history of the country and in them were staged the entertainment and propaganda of the colonial regime. Angola’s first cinemas in the 1930s, mirror the architecture of the State at the time, consisting of only enclosed spaces. Architecture and urban construct were the methods used to express the authority of the State and the power to segregate.

Angola was considered a place of ‘experimentation’ and the ideas of the Modern Movement, published in 1942 in the Athens Charter, gained momentum here. The society in Angola could aspire to a new future with a good quality of life. This enabled new buildings to be introduced in line with modern urbanism principles.

Cinema construct

Cinemas were created with the same segregation and separatist mindset as cities. Cinemas were created for ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. The Cine Colonial was built for black people and the Cine-Teatro Nacional for whites. However, these were cinemas for change.

In Luanda, the Cinema Restauração, the Império, the Miramar and the Avis were elegant spaces built with rich materials and with high and bas-relief artwork, these spaces were intended for use by the high society only. High society at the time was white population only, while the Cine-Bar Tropical was much more informal as a building and intended only for middle class. The Cine Colonial in the São Paulo neighbourhood, was intended for common people only and was even more informal, to the degree that when full patrons would bring their own chairs. Other cities followed the same principle of hierarchy and this, together with entrance cost into the cinemas, determined the type of patrons who frequented the cinemas. These two factors, cost and construct of these spaces were methods used to introduce separation and segregation, a divide between black and white, poor and rich.

Film as a medium of hope

Unlike its European counterparts, African countries had much less exposure to ‘Modern’ influences and although cinemas were introduced and scattered throughout Angolan cities, the accessibility of these were limited to the broader audience. Most films were also exclusively about white contextual influences, created by white filmmakers, for a white audience and played by white actors. Where black actors were included, it was to play parts of servants and characters much similar to the roles black people had in real life. Although the subjects of most films were about a life that few of the black audience could relate to, a whole new world suddenly was introduced. Similar to the impact the Internet has today, film brought far and distant worlds right to their doorstep and with this a possibility of creating a new future. The magic of film reached an audience, previously confined to a world of segregation with very few benefits and an identity defined only by a skin colour. Although the architecture of these spaces might have separated black and white, but the ability to dream through these visual media, brought worlds never before seen and influenced and opened up new worlds and dreams to many. What changed and what remains

In Angola, the cinema is a cultural asset and has significant importance. Although many of these today aren’t used as per their intended function, some have been restored to its former function. Restoring the cinemas means not only recovering its architectural form but its function too. It is of great importance to establish a dialect between the future and the past and make this evident among new users. These public buildings are buildings inserted in a context where they have social purpose, which still exist today, to bring other cultures to these users and with that a new sense of hope and a different possible future. Although the cinemas over time changed to its audiences, theatres began having a simpler, more modest audience, many of the previous patrons stopped visiting cinemas as they considered Hollywood films of better quality than what was being screened. However, due to the fact that the same films were repeated, audiences started to lose interest.

Some of these cinemas still remain in operation today, but as mentioned does not follow its intended purposes. The national assembly is housed in the Cine- Teatro Restauração, is an example of this.


The African continent has undergone major transformation since its invasion and colonisation. The coloniality that remains today begs the question, what should remain and what should be changed. One could argue that many of the new technologies and infrastructure that were introduces significantly boosted the development of the continent, but these are material in nature. The question one should consider is the deeper psychological and societal marks that have been left on the continent and each individual African country by colonisation. What does it take for a part of society to decolonise itself and build a new future while remembering the past? Does one remember the past or build a new future while remaining blind to the past?

The architecture of cinemas in Angola and what these spaces represent and the medium it presents to its viewers has been a beacon of change and hope for its users and will continue to do so. “With time, the city grows upon itself; acquires its own consciousness and memory. In the course of its construction, its original themes persist, but at the same time the city modifies and renders these themes of its own development more specific.” Aldo Rossi

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To reflect on history and ones memory is to embrace the past and its legacies, without history there would be no present and with no present there is no future. One should embrace the past, but learn from it to become a better society. The past holds the keys to a different and better future and the importance lies in not being stuck in this past, but to take its lessons into the present, where they can be used to construct a future free from what often holds us hostage in this very past we so try to escape.

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The Cinemas Of Angola – Spaces Of Hope. (2019, July 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from
“The Cinemas Of Angola – Spaces Of Hope.” GradesFixer, 10 Jul. 2019,
The Cinemas Of Angola – Spaces Of Hope. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 Feb. 2024].
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